Yesterday, while on the train to and from Shrewsbury, I took a number of urgent calls from staff at Merlin primary school in Downham, Lewisham. That morning, the Local Authority had served an ultimatum on the governing body - agree to be taken over by Haberdashers' Aske's Knights Academy - or else.
This is a politically-motivated threat, quite simply. The Authority has been trying to bully a number of Downham schools into being forced into the Academy federation, up to now without success.
Unfortunately, cowed by threats of Ofsted visits and given the impression that there was no alternative, by the end of the day governors started to abandon any fight and the mood rubbed off on staff who also voted - if narrowly - in a meeting at the end of the day to accept the Academy.
That mood had to be changed - and having visited the school tonight, it has been! Why should teachers accept the threats and the blame and be steam-rollered into an Academy? Why should the community lose its school to an Aske's takeover? Why should governors be bounced into a decision before parents have even been consulted? Staff left for the weekend determined to fight the bullies and fight for their school.
UPDATE: On Monday evening, the Merlin governors met and a majority voted to reject the takeover. The Authority will no doubt be back with a 'warning notice' to try and bully the school into submission but now they know they have a fight on their hands. A parents' meeting is planned for the beginning of next term to explain what the Authority intends - and why staff and governors want to join with parents in opposing it.
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