After months of speculation a decision will finally be made today on whether a school will remain under council control or become an academy. GARETH DAVIES reports on the turbulence that has surrounded Hove Park School following the announcement in March and the mood ahead of the all-important vote being taken by governors tonight.

It all comes down to today. If the governors vote yes, Hove Park School will become an academy.

Vote no, and it will stay under the jurisdiction of Brighton and Hove City Council.

The plans to convert to an academy were put forward by the school’s headteacher Derek Trimmer back in March, but he was met with staunch opposition and the formation of the parent pressure group Hands Off Hove Park.

The group gathered 2,000 signatures on a petition slamming the plans and widespread support for its campaign, which led to Brighton and Hove City Council holding a parent ballot in July.

More than 70% of parents who answered the ballot opposed the plans, and a day later the school was forced to close as teachers voted overwhelmingly to strike over the issue on July 16.

In a private ballot tonight, governors will be deciding the school’s future – which still continues to divide opinion. Mr Trimmer said: “Our future vision for Hove Park is centred around the continued raising of standards and the elimination of the achievement gap between different groups of children.

“We remain committed to working in partnership with other schools and to benefitting the life opportunities for the children of this city. “We were therefore delighted to see this year's results make further significant strides in all of these areas.“As we consider our position over the question of academy status we need to align our vision with the possibilities for a future either as a multi-academy trust, a family of schools or as a continued local authority-maintained school. “Whichever vehicle governors choose to deliver our vision we will remain true to our conviction that schools supporting schools is the most effective way to drive up standards.”

Two unions – the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and UNISON – balloted its members, and 80% voted to take industrial action.

Campaigners rejoiced in a double-celebration on July 15 when it was revealed 71% of parents voted in opposition of the plans.

Denise Knutsen, UNISON schools convenor, said: "Our members sincerely hope that Hove Park Governors will accept the overwhelming view of parents and staff, that the academy route is not the future for the school.

“All of us want Hove Park to remain in the local community of schools where it is a valued member, not to become directly run by Whitehall, and subject to the whims of faceless bureaucrats.”

Dominic Herrington, regional schools commissioner for South London and the South East, said: “Hove Park School has consulted carefully with the parents and staff and rightly a professional decision will now be taken by the headteacher and governors.

“It is important to recognise that thousands of schools across the country have successfully taken advantage of the benefits of academy status and are working closely with neighbouring schools to raise standards and provide a better quality of education for whole communities.”

Hands Off Hove Park will make one last attempt to sway the vote as they hold a rally outside the school gates on Nevill Road immediately before the vote.