COUNCILLORS are being advised to rethink their push for a second ballot of parents to gauge their opposition to Moulsecoomb Primary School being turned into an academy.

Officials are concerned that a fresh ballot could place the governors in a difficult position, according to a report to members of Brighton and Hove City Council.

The official report follows a request made by the full council in March when a majority of councillors were pushing for a special meeting and a new parental ballot.

The request was made in response to news that the government was preparing to appoint an academy trust to run the school.

It has since appointed the Pioneer Academy trust which employs one of the Ofsted inspectors whose report – which rated the school “inadequate” – triggered the process of forcing it to become an academy.

Labour councillor Amanda Grimshaw told the council meeting in March: “Will an unwanted academy be imposed on a school and a community and a city that has shouted and raged that they are not wanted?”

Councillor Grimshaw, who represents Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, added: “Why would they continue to still put themselves forward to take a place in the heart of a community that has shouted: ‘Hands off!’”

A ballot of parents took place in autumn 2019 when 96.5 per cent opposed the prospect of the “local authority maintained school” becoming an academy.

Since the Pioneer Academy trust was appointed, staff have gone on strike and parents and supporters have held protests.

The Argus: Parents and campaigners blocked the gates of Moulsecoomb Primary School to stop academy officials entering the buildingParents and campaigners blocked the gates of Moulsecoomb Primary School to stop academy officials entering the building

Despite the strength of feeling, the new report – to the council’s children, young people and skills committee – said: “While the previous survey of views took place 18 months ago, it is unclear that there would be a significant benefit to having a more up-to-date view of parents and carers that will be able to inform the governing body and council of the strength of opinions.

“Any survey will remain outside of the academy process and therefore does not play a statutory role in the process.

“While the school considered it was possible to undertake the process of surveying parents and carers, this would have been an additional logistical challenge while maintaining Covid-secure arrangements.

“In addition to remaining focused on building on the progress of improving the delivery of education at the school, the circumstances following the announcement of the sponsor mean that careful consideration must be given to the benefit of holding a ballot of parents and carers.

“The impact of the Covid pandemic may affect the response rate which was 61 per cent in October 2019.

“Parents and carers may feel uneasy about handling ballot papers and have an impact on the quantity of response forms received back.”

The report also said that there would be a financial cost and added: “The governing body are currently focused on taking the steps it considers appropriate to represent the community and the best interests of the school.

“The necessary engagement of the governing body to undertake a further survey of parent and carers’ views may lead to the governing body being unable to fulfil its wider role and jeopardise the continuity in leadership that they have achieved.”

The children, young people and skills committee is due to meet at 4pm next Monday. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.