The Department for Education has chosen the Harris Federation to take over Camden Junior School – despite a survey which revealed 99 per cent of people were against it.
Sutton Council has expressed its regret this morning as their preferred sponsor was the local Greenshaw High School. Both the council and the Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake are looking into whether it is possible to appeal the decision.
The Secretary of State Lord Nash has sent a letter home to parents and said: “In terms of experience and track record, we do not believe the Greenshaw team match the strength and experience of Harris in turning round failing schools with access to some of the best school improvement leaders in the country.”
He said that to do otherwise would be “too great a risk for children who have already experienced over 15 months at a school in special measures who now need immediate help to improve their situation”.
The Harris Federation devised a consultation exercise to find out people’s views on whether the Camden should convert to an academy under its sponsorship.
A staggering 494 out of 545 respondents expressed their preference for Camden to be taken over by Greenshaw High School.
Parents also launched a campaign to back Camden Juniors becoming a sponsored academy with Greenshaw as they felt the school would have a better understanding about what pupils and parents in Sutton need.
But despite this the Department for Education went with their preferred sponsor Harris due to their expertise, ability to deploy resources quickly and their good track record.
Councillor Ruth Dombey, leader of Sutton Council, said: “The council, MPs and everybody agreed Greenshaw was the best option.
“What we did was come up with a really good solution. But I’ve got to be leader of the council as well and all these kids have a right to good education.
“I just find it extraordinary – over 98 per cent [were against].
“So much for localism. People feel completely disempowered some parents worked incredibly hard on that campaign – what’s the point if the decision was made behind closed doors?”
Tom Brake, the MP for Carshalton and Wallington said: “I’m clearly very disappointed at the outcome when the community had expressed a very clear preference for the local sponsor Greenshaw.
“When there is more than one sponsor for a school I think it is completely wrong for the Department for Education to express a preference. It risks predetermining the outcome.
“That is a point the Department for Education have heard from me and will follow up on. When this happens parents want to be certain that a potential sponsor has an equal chance.”
Spokesperson for the Keep Camden Local campaign said: "We are very disappointed that Lord Nash and the Department for Education ignored what was presented to them. Greenshaw had the strongest case and local support."
A Harris Federation spokeswoman said: "As a sponsor with a firm track record of establishing outstanding schools near to Camden, we have the plans, resources and expertise to make sure its children, now and in the future, get the excellent education they deserve.
"We firmly hope and believe that, through providing local children with a primary education that develops them as learners and that they enjoy, in an environment in which they feel happy and secure, we will repay the faith that has been put in us to accelerate progress and achievement at the school.”
More to follow.