Parents furious as government forces Roke Primary School in Kenley to become part of Harris Academy chain
Angry parents are battling the Government in a bid to halt plans to turn a school into an academy after just one bad Ofsted report.
Roke Primary School in Little Roke Road, Kenley, is set to become a Harris academy in changes parents say is threatening to "rip the heart out" of their community.
The school has been told it must become part of the Harris Federation - which runs three academies in Croydon and 20 across London - after the school's Ofsted rating fell from outstanding to inadequate in three years.
But parents and governors say the poor rating was a blip caused partly by a computer failure and point to the Government's own guidelines, which state that only consistently underperforming schools are prime candidates for academy conversion.
They are also frustrated that the Department for Education (DoE) snubbed their preferred choice of academy sponsor and fear the school will lose its identity if forced to become part of the Harris chain.
Governors had asked the DoE, if the school had to become an academy, for Roke to be partnered with Riddlesdown Collegiate, where the majority of its pupils go on to study.
Riddlesdown staff also began helping Roke to improve its performance after the Ofsted inspection in May, when a computer failure prevented the primary from submitting full data to inspectors.
But the DoE threatened to sack the governors unless they complied with plans for Roke to be absorbed by Harris.
Parent Nigel Geary-Andrews, 39, said: "It is alarming that the Government is rushing through forced academies on schools like Roke, where there is no proven record of failure over any length of time, without any consultation with parents at all and no way of appealing.
"This does not seem democratic or transparent to me".
Becky Carrier, 31, whose eight-year-old daughter Millie attends Roke, said: "We have been chosen as an easy target because the school is already turning things around. Then Harris will be able to take the credit for it.
"The children are proud of their school but it is going to lose its identity. They are ripping the heart out of the school and the community."
More than 150 people have pledged support for the parents' fight, but there is no formal appeal process to challenge the DoE's decision and the school is likely to become a Harris academy in September.
A DoE spokesman said: "We have serious concerns about standards at Roke Primary. Ofsted gave the school a notice to improve last year.
We cannot just stand by when a school is failing children - we need to step in and make changes quickly.
"Harris is one of our best Academy sponsors with an exceptional primary team.
"They have extensive experience of turning around previously underperforming schools in London, nine of which have now been judged as outstanding by Ofsted."
A Harris Federation spokeswoman said: "We have our roots as a charity in Croydon, having opened our first school there twenty years ago and two more since then. All three replaced struggling schools, but are now rated as outstanding by Ofsted and highly oversubscribed.
"Because of our track record in the area and the exceptional primary team we have at the Harris Federation, we are confident that we could give the staff at Roke the support they need to provide outstanding education for children at the school.
"This is why we agreed to become the Department for Education's preferred sponsor".