MP backs parents fighting academy

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

SHEFFIELD MP Paul Blomfield has stepped into the row over a city school’s plans to turn itself into an academy.

He is supporting parents at King Ecgbert School in Dore calling for a full ballot on the issue before governors vote on January 17.

Central MP Mr Blomfield said he was also calling on Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg to support the parents’ protest group - as the school’s catchment stretches across the two men’s constituencies.

Councillors from all parties along the Abbeydale corridor have also called for a vote.

While the school has rejected the idea, it has agreed to distribute a circular among parents which asks them to give their views.

The secondary has also held two well-attended public meetings on the issue.

Headteacher Lesley Bowes, who backs the conversion plan, believes the protest group represents a minority point of view among parents.

But Mr Blomfield criticised the short timescale of the consultation period, which had also stretched across the busy Christmas period.

“I think it would be right for all parents of children currently studying at King Ecgbert and parents in Year 6 at the feeder schools to be given their say in a democratic ballot on this decision,” he said.

“I’m concerned that the school appears to have rejected the request from local councillors for a ballot and I would urge the school to reconsider this decision.

“If a ballot of each parent was held, with both sides of the argument clearly explained to them, then the governors would be able to make their final decision knowing their full views.”

The parents’ group argues it is council policy for schools to hold a ballot.

They say governors first decided to consult on academy conversion last June - but waited five months to inform parents of their decision.

And they claim a statement which they were allowed to put on the school website was censored because it raised the ballot issue.

Group chair Andrew James also criticised the consultation process as ‘very weak’.

“The so-called consultation meetings have been little more than sales pitches for the school to try and sell its decision to parents, rather than meaningfully engage them in the most important decision the school will ever take on behalf of current parents and future generations to come,” he said.

Mr James added the governors’ decision should be deferred until all relevant financial information was available and parents had been properly canvassed.

The school argues it faces a 25 per cent cut to its sixth form funding and so financial advantages brought by academy conversion are essential if educational standards are to be maintained and quality staff retained.