BY CALUM FRASER
Town hall chiefs and politicians have pledged their support to parents and teachers concerned that a school in South-east London may be forced to become an academy.
The John Roan school in Greenwich received its Ofsted inspection in March and members of the National Education Union (NEU) believe that when the report is published in June the school will receive an Inadequate category.
If a school is judged to be Inadequate the Secretary of State for education, Damien Hinds, has the power to issue a Direct Academy Order (DAO) forcing the school to become an academy.
Matthew Pennycook, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, said: “Ofsted’s final inspection report has not been finalised and published, so nothing is known for certain.
“But I am clear that I will oppose any attempt to forcibly convert The John Roan to an academy as a means of addressing underperformance at the school.
“Ultimately, it is the pupils and their education that must be at the centre of everyone’s thinking, but I intend to do everything I can to stave off the issuing of an academy order so that the new headteacher is given a fair chance to turn the situation around.”
Teachers, unionists and parents gathered on Thursday to voice their concerns and organise a resistance to the decision if it comes through in June.
Kirstie Paton’s son is due to start at The John Roan next term.
Ms Paton, who is also a teacher at the school in Maze Hill, said: “I didn’t sign up to have my son in an academy.
“It seems that the governing body have given up on our school and have resigned themselves to accepting that there is nothing we can do to challenge the DfE Secretary of State’s powers to force an academisation.
“We disagree. When something is unfair or unjust we teach our students to challenge it. We teach them about the Suffragettes, Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai.
“We encourage them to find out about their rights and voice their opinions. We encourage them to analyse, reflect, evaluate and discuss. It would be strange if we didn’t do the same.”
Annie Harrison, who is a drama teacher at a different school, has two children at The John Roan – one in Reception and one in Year 10.
She said: “I am vehemently anti-academy. Surely we have a right to challenge this.”
Ms Paton and members of the NEU said they will strike if the academy order is imposed.
The Secretary of State has the power to postpone the order if they think there are exceptional mitigating circumstances.
Councillor David Gardiner, who was recently nominated as deputy leader of Greenwich council, attended the meeting on Thursday.
He said: “We will do the utmost that we can to support schools in resisting academisation.
“I will commit to go round all schools in the borough with this message of support.
“I will also be talking to these schools about the importance of using qualified teachers, proper conditions, parent governors, London Living Wage and having a community ethos.
“If we stand a chance of delaying this order we need to have a campaign that is very much rooted in the local community, which parents are very much behind.”
The John Roan was originally two grammar schools. The boys’ school was founded in 1677 and the girls’ school in 1877.
Both schools merged to become a co-ed comprehensive in 1983.
Des Malone was the headteacher from 2007 to 2015 when it was rated Good by Ofsted.
But since he stepped down in 2015 there have been different heads. The most recent, Cath Smith was employed seven months ago.
NEU Greenwich divisional secretary Tim Woodcock said: “It’s got some problems, but we believe the local authority has more than enough capacity to look after this school and to help it improve.”
We contacted the Department for Education and a spokeswoman said they could not provide a formal comment until the Ofsted report had been published.