Parent protesters angry at school academy vote

King Ecgberts School 'Class Act'Headteacher Lesley Bowes in her office
King Ecgberts School 'Class Act'Headteacher Lesley Bowes in her office

KING Ecgbert School at Dore is to become an academy this summer after governors voted overwhelmingly to support the controversial move.

But fresh animosity has blown up over the decision, with parent protesters accusing the governing body of being shortsighted.

“We are bitterly disappointed about the governors’ decision,” said Andrew James, chair of the KES PLEAS protest group.

“The governors have in effect accepted a short-term bribe in return for longer-term financial instability. While it is certainly not something we would wish for, this may yet turn out to be a decision that the governors sincerely regret in years to come.”

A meeting of the full governing body on Tuesday voted to seek conversion to academy status, removing the school from local authority control.

The motion was carried by 16 votes to two, with one abstention.

Chair of governors Ian Hewson said: “This decision has been taken in the best interests of the school. We are determined to defend and continue to improve the high standards and the rich curriculum we provide at King Ecgbert and academy status will enable us to do this.”

Headteacher Lesley Bowes has repeatedly insisted that such a move would be made for financial reasons, to offset the impact of cuts in sixth-form funding.

She said: “Academy conversion will not change our fundamental principles of inclusion and excellence and our commitment to being an active participant in the Sheffield education community.”

But protesters say the school has failed to carry out meaningful consultations over the issue.

“We have tried to engage with them but the consultation process has been nothing more than a sham,” said Mr James.

He claimed governors refused to hold a formal ballot and parents had less than a week to return forms giving their views about conversion to academy status. Of those that were returned, only four supported conversion while 39 opposed it.

Resistance to the move was underlined by a ballot held last week to elect a new parent governor.

The incumbent, who supported academy status, was re-elected – but by just 83 votes to 79, only narrowly defeating a challenger who opposed the move.

Mr James added: “We will now consider what monitoring role we can continue to play to try and ensure that the commitments given by the governors are honoured.”

King Ecgbert – which recorded its best-ever GCSE results last summer with 75% good passes – should take on academy status within the next three to six months, following a process of due diligence.

It will join Sheffield’s existing academies, Yewlands, Sheffield Springs, Sheffield Park and Parkwood. Tapton’s application has been held back by legal red tape.