PARENTS and teachers staged a protest outside Darwen Vale High School over plans to turn the school into an academy.
Around 50 people turned up en masse to a drop-in session with representatives from educational charity the Aldridge Foundation – the preferred sponsor – and the Department for Education on Wednesday evening.
They voiced their objections to the proposal, and the way in which the consultation process had been carried out, which they said was misleading and in favour of academies.
After raising their concerns at the meeting, a group stood outside the school with banners and placards calling on Education Secretary Michael Gove to keep the school within local authority control.
The protest had been organised by parents, together with Claire Ward, an English teacher at the school, who represents East Lancashire’s members of the NASUWT.
She said: “The way they’ve gone about it, there’s been no consultation, no choice. It’s so wrong. Staff don’t want it, parents don’t want it, the local community don’t want it.
“The NASUWT has balloted members and they have voted for action up to strike action, and strike action, to try to stop it. We don’t want to go on strike. All we want is consultation.”
Several parents and children supported the protest, and they, in turn, were shown support by passing motorists and pedestrians.
Janet Toth, 50, from Fernhurst, whose three children have been to the school, said: “It’s so wrong. It’s our town, our school, and it’s doing really well. It got really good results at the last Ofsted inspection and it’s projected to do really well at this year’s exams.
“What we wanted was an open consultation in which we had a dialogue, but we haven’t been given that. I’ve been a parent here for nine years and I’ve never had any issues.” Another parent, Peter Davidson, 52, from Lower Darwen, has one child at the school and one studying for A-levels at college.
He said: “It’s a good school. My son went there and he’s now going to university to study maths. I can’t see anything wrong with this school. It’s a local school, it’s been going for years.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “The children at Darwen Vale deserve the best possible education. Ofsted found the school to have serious weaknesses in a number of areas last year.
“We cannot stand by when a school is judged inadequate. We believe that becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor is the best solution for ensuring rapid and sustained improvement. The Aldridge Foundation has an excellent track record in similar schools, but no decision has yet been made.
“A thorough consultation into whether Darwen Vale should become an academy is ongoing.”
The spokesman said four drop-in sessions for parents, teachers and others had been held. A fifth session will be on May 10. All parents have received letters to make them aware of the eight-week consultation which has been extended due to the Easter break.