Published: 13:27, 01 August 2018
Parents fear a repeat of one school's financial crisis could endanger the education offered at seven of Deal's primary schools if they convert to academies.
A petition has been set up asking for a ballot amid concerns over the consultation to merge Sandown, Hornbeam, The Downs, Deal Parochial, Northbourne, Sholden, and Kingsdown and Ringwould into one large academy trust.
Campaign group Save Deal Schools is demanding that “each school runs a parent ballot, where parents are able to respond based on true and honest information.”
Parent Emily Barnes, who is among the 120 to have signed the petition, said: “I’ve joined other mums, dads and carers in starting a petition asking for a full and fair consultation on these academy proposals, which should include a ballot of the parents of each school concerned.
“I feel very strongly that misinformation has been provided by some school leaders to parents and that we must act now.”
Parent Vanessa Gray-Bull added: “The lack of a real consultation and regard for opinions of the wider community is simply shocking, when the proposal is to leave Deal with no local authority schools.”
Academisation means that schools are controlled by a board of directors rather than the local authority, such as Kent County Council, and a school governing body.
Growing trends show the removal of elected parents and teacher governors being replaced by appointed governors as seen at Deal’s only secondary school, Goodwin Academy.
Originally hailed as a good thing when the former Castle Community College became an academy in 2010, it was proven not always true when the school admitted it had a staggering £3million deficit in February.
KCC says it is aware of the concerns of some parents regarding the proposals and has written to each of the schools in respect of information published on their websites. It is for the governing body of each of the schools to address parental concern as part of its consultation process.
Chairman of Deal Town Council, Cllr Nick Tomaszewski, says councillors have received many enquires from concerned parents over the proposal.
It prompted him to arrange an extraordinary meeting on the matter, open to the public, scheduled for Monday, September 10.
It would be a chance for all interested parents and parties to seek clarification from Jo Hygate, chairman of Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust (DEALT), who is heading up the proposal for the Multi Academy Trust (MAT).
Having initially accepted the invitation, Mrs Hygate has since retracted her offer stating that she is no longer willing to attend.
Cllr Tomaszewski said: “Deal Town Council is understandably disappointed by her response in view of the concerns raised by numerous interested parties in the town over the unclear statements emanating from the trust, above all, however, the lack of openness and transparency.
“All council members oppose the academisation of schools, not least, following the scandalous, financial debacle at our local Goodwin Academy.
“Labour councils believe that well run, local schools, that provide good education should not be forced to become academies. Academies are able to set their own pay scales paying teaching assistants ‘poverty wages’ while some chief executives may take home six-figure salaries.
“Academisation is a creeping privatisation of our education system and our children deserve better.”
Dover District Council has also passed a motion to express its concern over the process.
Proposed by Cllr Mike Eddy, Labour Group Leader and councillor for Mill Hill, the motion asked for the Secretary of State to halt the academisation process until the results of meaningful consultation had been analysed.
He said: “People in Deal and nearby villages are rightly worried by the proposals to turn several local primary schools into a multi-academy trust. They worry that parents will be cut out of decisions about their children’s futures and they worry about long-term future of the schools.”
Labour’s deputy leader, Cllr Bill Gardner, who represents North Deal, added: “Local residents have seen how Goodwin Academy, our only secondary school, has run into massive financial problems, leading to the loss of two dozen staff. They have very little faith that a primary school trust will be any more successful given the way academy managers pay themselves so well.
“We need to make sure that our children’s futures are secure.”
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Dover & Deal, Charlotte Cornell, says she is also supporting Deal parents in the campaign.