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Hove Park School one step closer to becoming academy
Updated 2:59pm Wednesday 2nd April 2014 in News
One of the country's most improved schools has taken a step closer to academy status after governors voted in favour of the move.
Staff at Hove Park School will now begin a period of consultation before a final vote on whether to formally apply to Department for Education is taken.
Union leaders have branded the decision “disappointing” adding that strike action is “on the horizon”.
The school, which has seen the number of students achieving five GCSEs at A* to C rocket by 25% over recent years, would be only the city's third secondary to convert - and the first which had not been plagued by poor results.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the school's chair of governors, Mike Nicholls, confirmed they had decided to “register an interest” in the move.
He said: “As a good school with a goal of rapidly moving towards outstanding, the governing body held a meeting to discuss the option of converting to an academy and consulting fully with our stakeholders.
“Governors voted to begin a process of an informed consultation over the status of the school. The consultation will involve Hove Park current and prospective parents and carers, students and staff.”
Paul Shellard, from Brighton and Hove National Union of Teachers, warned school bosses “comprehensive” consultation must be carried out.
Speaking to The Argus he said the school should ballot all staff and parents.
He also urged the headteacher, Derek Trimmer, to hold a public debate in which parents could be presented with the full facts.
He said: “Our members are of course disappointed by the decision.
“The next stage is all about what shape their consultation takes: the length and how substantial it is.
“Industrial action is a possibility. I would say action is far more likely if the consultation is not what we expect it to be.”
Academies have attracted controversy ever since they were introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government.
Although state-funded they are independent from local authority control.
As a result they have more freedom regarding finances, curriculum, term dates and get to select a certain percentage of the intake.
They can also opt out of national pay and conditions for teachers.
Brighton and Hove schools have largely avoided conversion with just two of the city's ten secondary schools now academies - Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and Portslade Aldridge Community Academy.
In the last few years, the recent candidates for academy conversion nationally have been struggling schools with poor results and Ofsted.
However, Hove Park has been one of the most improved schools across the country in recent years.
The move has been described by unions as “unprecedented” with the fear that many other city schools could follow.
It was previously suggested a city-wide strike would be called if staff at Hove Park went ahead.
While Mr Shellard did not rule out the action last night, he said legal issues would have to be overcome.
A parents' group called Hands Off Hove Park School has also been set up.
A spokeswoman said: “This all feels like it has happened very quickly and with very little information sent to parents.
“We have had one vague letter talking about the future of the school with the possibility of converting to an academy.
“We have fully supported this school in recent years through the improvements so this feels like a betrayal.
“We want a full, frank and open discussion about what this means for the pupils and the local community.
“This is our local school and we are very passionate about it. We want to be involved in any decisions being made and at the moment it doesn't feel like we are.”
Mr Nicholls added said their decision to register an interest would allow them greater access to advise to “fully investigate the pros and cons” of a move.
He said: “We will share this information with our stakeholders and ensure that an effective consultation can take place based upon the facts.
“The decision about whether or not to apply for Academy status will only be taken at a future meeting of the Governing Body and as a result of a formal vote by Governors.”
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