A STRUGGLING primary school could be shut down after an academy trust dropped plans to sponsor it.

The New Horizons Academy Trust had shown an interest in supporting Moulsecoomb Primary School in Lewes Road, Brighton.

Education chiefs have ordered the school to become an academy, or face being shut, but that sparked protests from parents and the community.

However New Horizons has pulled out of plans to support the school and said protesters had made the mood “toxic”.

The Department for Education said Brighton and Hove City Council has failed to run the school effectively, and it must be made an academy or face closure.

But council education chiefs hit back, and say the school is making progress and accused New Horizons of showing a “complete lack of respect”.

New Horizons education director Lee Murley said: “As a trust we have a moral obligation to ensure the welfare of our own staff and would feel highly uncomfortable about sending them into an environment where they would not be made welcome.

“At present the atmosphere for those looking to help the school feels toxic.

“Parental opposition is something we would never bow down to, when something as important as children’s futures are in question.

“But when objections come from within the school as well, that is when improvements become unviable.”

Mr Murley, who is a headteacher at Seaside Primary School in Lancing, said the trust was keen to work with staff and parents.

Moulsecoomb was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors, as standards in reading, writing, and maths were well below average.

In June the school was issued with an order by the Department for Education.

It sparked protests by parents, pupils, staff and politicians which included staging a mock funeral.

Mr Murley added: “We are a small, local academy trust. We have first-hand experience in turning a school around and transforming children’s education for the better, and we wanted to share how we have done this with Moulsecoomb.”

But Councillor Kate Knight, who sits on the Children, Young People and Skills Committee said talk of the new academy trust has been a “distraction”.

She said: “New Horizons Academy Trust has shown a complete lack of respect for those dedicated to the success of Moulsecoomb Primary School.

“It is making good progress under its current leadership and with the full support of our education team and other schools.

“The best course of action is to leave Moulsecoomb Primary School alone.

“We need to let those with a genuine commitment and understanding of this school to continue to make improvements. It’s disgraceful that the trust has chosen to make such public negative comments about our school, behaviour that would seem to speak volumes about their values. Honestly? It looks like Moulsecoomb Primary has had a lucky escape.”