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Gillingham parents' fury at ‘rigged’ academy plan for Twydall Primary School

Parents say a proposal to turn their children’s school into an academy has been rigged and the move will damage the primary’s “unique” learning environment.

Twydall Primary could become the latest school in Medway to take up academy status, joining Rochester Grammar, All Faiths in Strood and New Horizons in Chatham as part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), if governors give the go ahead.

But parents are unhappy about the move and want the decision to be fair, transparent and to give them a choice in the future of their children’s education.

Twydall Primary Academy protesters outside the council offices
Twydall Primary Academy protesters outside the council offices

Parents Against Twydall Takeover (PATT) protested at Medway Council headquarters in Gun Wharf on Wednesday, and plan to hand out leaflets to councillors at the full council meeting tonight.

A spokesman for PATT said: “Twydall Primary School is unique, offering a completely inclusive learning environment for all pupils including many with physical disabilities, as well as achieving great SATs results, and an excellent Medway Test pass rate.

"We are extremely proud of that and will do whatever it takes to protect it.”

The parents are not against the school becoming an academy, but believe TSAT is not the right sponsor for the school.

Twydall is one of the few primary schools in Medway which has provision for a large number of special needs pupils and parents are worried that TSAT does not have proven experience in this area.

The spokesman said: “This fight is about Twydall having a fair choice in becoming an academy – about not having TSAT, who we believe is a completely inadequate match for the school, forced upon us in a rigged vote.

“We’re still waiting for them to tell us exactly how they would plan to improve the school.”

The move to turn the school into an academy came after it was placed in special measures by Ofsted in May.

The inspection was unscheduled and came after allegations of a “serious incident”.

Following protests from staff and parents, Ofsted upgraded the school to “requires improvement” and deleted references to the incident.

The school in Twydall Lane, merged with the infants school in September 2011.

With 555 pupils aged between three and 11, Twydall is a larger than average primary schools.

"This fight is about Twydall having a fair choice in becoming an academy" - parent spokesman

Lee Miller, director of TSAT, said the trust was approached in May 2014 by the DfE and Medway Council to consider working with the school.

Mr Miller said: “Since then we have been working closely with the governing body as part of their due diligence process as they make a decision whether our trust can best serve the needs of Twydall.”

According to Mr Miller, the DfE, council and Twydall’s governors agreed in November that TSAT was the preferred sponsor.

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