PARENTS and staff are “celebrating” news that an academy trust has dropped plans to sponsor a struggling primary school.

This week New Horizons Academy Trust withdrew from trying to run Moulsecoomb Primary School in Lewes Road.

Trust bosses had faced fierce opposition and protests both from parents and from staff at the school, which was rated as inadequate by Ofsted.

It led New Horizons education director Lee Murley to say the mood was “toxic” at the school, leaving it at risk of being closed by the Department for Education.

But the National Education Union Brighton secretary Paul Shellard said Mr Murley’s words were an “insult to loyal and committed staff”.

Meanwhile, parents voted by a margin of 96 per cent to oppose plans for the primary school to become an academy under the New Horizons Academy Trust.

Teachers had planned strike action to stop the plan.

Moulsecoomb parent Natasha Ide said: “I fully supported the staff in taking strike action to save our school.

“The whole community is united, and we will not stop fighting until our voices are heard.

“The last thing our children need is the instability of a trust with a poor track record taking over our school so it’s great news to hear that this sponsor has pulled out.”

This week Mr 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.”

He said standards at the school are below average, and said the Department for Education told the school it must become an academy.

Mr Murley added that opposition to New Horizons among staff as well meant the sponsor plan was not viable.

But Cllr Kate Knight said Mr Murley’s comments were “disgraceful” and said the school has had a “lucky escape”.

Her thoughts were echoed by Mr Shellard. He said: “Mr Murley chose to insult the loyal and committed staff at Moulsecoomb by saying they make the school feel toxic.

“Children, parents and carers have a very different view of those who work with them on a daily basis.

“We bear Mr Murley no ill-will and hope Seaside Primary in Lancing continues to prosper.

“It’s just a shame that he didn’t have the good grace to show support for Moulsecoomb Primary as he drove away from it.”