A school has moved a step closer to becoming an academy amid protesters’ claims of a “whitewash”.

Education secretary Michael Gove has agreed “in principle” to Worthing High’s controversial planned conversion to academy status.

Debbie Woudman, chair of the school’s Parents’ Forum, complained parents and teachers had not been listened to.

She said: “I’m sort of crushed by the whole thing. The consultation has been laughable and we feel that the views of parents and teachers have been ignored.”

The school’s governors voted to send the academy application to the Department for Education in June.

In theory the move could be reversed up to the night before the first day as an academy.

Corianda Sweetman, who has two children at the school, said the fight to stop the conversion would go on.

She said: “The approval of the application has come as a disappointment, but by no means a surprise. This has been a complete whitewash from start to finish.

“We will continue to oppose this decision and to gather signatures of people who believe this would be the wrong thing to do. This isn’t over yet.”

A spokeswoman for Worthing High said a formal staff consultation would begin at the start of the autumn term.

She added the school was aiming to formally convert to a Converter Academy on November 1.

The change would only take place after the Funding Agreement and Articles of Association of the new Academy Trust have been approved by the Department for Education.

Liberal Democrat Worthing Borough councillor Bob Smytherman said Mr Gove’s decision to back the conversion was “outrageous”.

He said: “This has been rushed through during the school holidays and it shows complete contempt for the parents. Our biggest fear is that the school playing fields could be sold off to someone like Tesco to raise more money.”

Headteacher Alison Beer said: “Our staff had many opportunities and offers from myself and the governors to sit down and discuss any concerns.

“My focus is on ensuring the needs of students always come first and the governors believe that converting to an academy is the right decision to make for this school and our students.”