A ROW has broken out after a Bury MP raised a question in parliament about Elton Primary being forced to become an academy.
Bury North Conservative MP David Nuttall asked the first question of the year in parliament on Monday and raised the controversial issue, which he previously said he is in favour of.
Mr Nuttall asked education secretary Michael Gove whether he could reassure parents with concerns that the change will be beneficial to their children.
Mr Gove said: “The evidence points to the fact that when primary and secondary schools have been converted to academies, they have made significant improvements.”
The academisation of the school in Alston Street has sparked outrage with a Save Elton Primary campaign group being set up, and a protest outside the school being attended by more than 100 people.
Both the Labour-ruled Bury Council and the school’s headteacher Tony Emmott have stated their opposition to the move, while Mr Nuttall has backed the Government’s policy.
Speaking after the debate in the House of Commons, Mr Nuttall said: “Of course I appreciate that there are bound to be concerns when changes are proposed to a school, but the main focus must always be what is best for the education of the pupils, and the evidence is that where failing schools become academies in most cases it is beneficial for the children.”
Elton Cllr James Frith, who is running for the Bury North seat at the 2015 general election, hit out at Mr Nuttall for not asking a question in parliament earlier.
He said: “‘It’s about time we heard our local MP asking questions in Parliament that relate to the lives of people living in Bury North, but it’s too little too late, as ever.
“Where was he when the school needed support to turn things around before Mr Gove enforced this situation on the school and community?”
The school was placed in special measures in May. But parents say exam results are improving, and the predicted grades for key stage two for the next academic year are set to be the best in the school’s history.
Paul Sandiford, a parent governor and a member of Save Elton Primary, added: “While of course Mr Gove is correct that parents are nervous whenever there is a change of management, I do not believe the claim that schools converting to academies will make progress.
“A significant amount of effort has already been undertaken at Elton, and we will see a significant improvement in results next year.”
Academies were first established in 2000, and are run independently, removed from local authority control.
The process of academisation will continue tonight when Gena Merrett, a Department for Education adviser, will attend the school to hand over papers. If these are rejected, the current board of governors could be replaced to force through the move.
The meeting has been moved from January 28, which has angered the protest group.