Parents celebrated from the public gallery when councillors voted to hold a ballot on a city school’s proposal to become an academy.
The group cheered and applauded at Hove Town Hall when Brighton and Hove City Council’s children and young people committee voted in favour of holding a parents’ ballot to gauge opinion from the Hove Park School community.
Councillor Sue Shanks, chairwoman of the committee, will now ask parents whether they want the school to become an academy and then present the results to headteacher Derek Trimmer and his senior leadership team.
A parent pressure group – Hands Off Hove Park – set up by parent Sharon Duggal, has gathered thousands of signatures on a petition opposing the proposals.
Even if the results show an overwhelming opposition to the school becoming an academy, the governors may still push ahead with the conversion.
She said: “It’s difficult to predict the outcome of the ballot, but we hope people will be of the same opinion as us.
“We know the governors will have the final say, but as parents we deserve to have our views listened to.
“This is not about politics – this is about principles.”
Labour councillor Penny Gilbey told the committee it would affect people in her ward of North Portslade.
She said parents had picked Hove Park over Portslade Aldridge Community Academy because they did not want their children educated in an academy.
She said: “This is not about whether we agree with academies or not, this is about whether parents agree or not. “It’s by no means a criticism of the school or the headteacher, the parents should be given the opportunity to be consulted.”
Conservative councillor Andrew Wealls did not support the ballot and said the move towards all schools becoming academies would continue regardless of the result.
He said: “I think this has become a Hove v Gove debate, and that’s a real shame. “We’re big supporters of the management team at the school and we trust them to make the right decision.”
Mark Drayton, governor at West Hove Junior School, a Hove Park feeder school, said: “It will give the governors something else to think about – it just adds another element to the debate.”
Labour councillor Gill Mitchell voted in favour of the ballot.
She said: “Governors and the school should be given the space to make this decision.”