A SCHOOL at the centre of the debate over academies has been told it must improve by inspectors.

Controversy surrounded Peacehaven Heights Primary at the start of the school year when its governing body was replaced with an unelected “interim executive board” by East Sussex County Council.

New chairman Jonathan Taylor pledged to “actively consider an academy solution” for the school, something the previous board of governors had voted against.

Now Peacehaven Heights has been downgraded to a “requires improvement” rating by Ofsted in a report published on Tuesday.

“Standards have fallen since the school’s previous [2016] inspection, and pupils at Peacehaven Heights have not achieved well,” inspectors wrote.

“Standards have been too low for the last two years. There have been several changes in leadership.

“In the past, teachers have not taught the full curriculum. As a result, pupils have gaps in their knowledge and understanding.”

But Ofsted believed new interim headteacher Gemma Roxburgh was already making a difference to the school’s fortunes.

“Since her appointment, the interim headteacher has tackled the significant areas for improvement in the school,” inspectors added.

“This is a happy school where pupils feel safe. Teachers are kind, and so pupils feel valued.”

Peacehaven National Education Union secretary Phil Clarke said union members were fully behind Ms Roxburgh.

But he worried the interim executive board would use the recent Ofsted report as a reason to convert the school into a charity-run academy.

“Our members don’t need Ofsted to tell them things are going in the right direction,” Mr Clarke said.

“They have got a lot of confidence in the headteacher.

“But members maintain there was no need for the shake up in the governing body.

“What they want is for the board to allow them to continue to make that progress and for a regular governing body to be reinstated as soon as possible.”

And Mr Clarke claimed Ofsted reports indirectly encouraged the privatisation of schools.

“The Ofsted system is completely broken from top to bottom. It’s set up to privatise schools,” he said.

“Ofsted reports are usually complete and utter nonsense but in this case what it says does happen to reflect the school’s situation.”

Board chairman Jonathan Taylor said he was pleased with the school’s “rapid improvement”.

“There is still a long way to go and myself and the entire leadership team are absolutely committed in ensuring all pupils at Peacehaven receive a first class education,” he said.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to all parents and families for their continued support.”

Meanwhile an East Sussex County Council spokesman said any decision to convert the school into an academy would be for the board to make.

“When it approved the appointment of an interim executive board, the Department for Education said it expected the board to actively consider a sponsored academy solution to safeguard the long-term future of the school,” he said.