Primary school's progress raises more questions over forced academy conversion

9:30am Wednesday 30th January 2013

By Chris Baynes

Fresh questions have been raised about controversial  plans to force a "failing" primary school to become an academy after inspectors said the school was improving.

The Department for Education (DoE) told Roke Primary School in Little Roke Road, Kenley, that it was to be absorbed by the Harris Federation after Ofsted gave it notice to improve in May last year.

The Government claimed the school - which had been rated outstanding in its previous inspection - was failing pupils and threatened to sack governors who dissented against the plans.

But Ofsted inspectors who made a monitoring visit to Roke on January 16 said they were satisfied with the school's progress and praised pupils' achievement.

Parents at Roke say this is further proof that the Government is flouting its guidelines, which state academy status should be considered for schools with long histories of poor performance.

Pupils at Roke exceed the national average in last year's SATs results and achieved a 16 per cent improvement on the previous year's.

Becky Carrier, 31, whose eight-year-old daughter Millie attends Roke, said: "What is the point of Ofsted having a notice to improve if schools are not given the chance to improve?

"We are doing all we can but it does not seem to be enough."

Ofsted inspector John Daniell also praised the contribution of secondary school Riddlesdown Collegiate in Honister Heights, Purley in helping Roke to improve.

It comes after the DoE rejected Roke's request to be partnered with Riddlesdown if it was to be forced to become a sponsored academy.

Gordon Smith, the secondary's principal, said: "We are really pleased that the hard work of Roke's staff and the support we have given have been recognised, but it does add to the disappointment that we won't be able to see that work through to the end.

"Once the sponsor became a requirement of the Department for Education we were very keen to be that sponsor."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We cannot just stand by if a school is failing children - we need to step in and make changes quickly. Ofsted gave the school a notice to improve last year.

"We have now received the report from their latest monitoring visit and we’ll take into account Ofsted’s findings and judgement, any representations from the school and all other relevant information, when considering the way forward for Roke."

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