Parents and campaigners says that their efforts to stop a primary school being forced to become an academy won’t be stopped – despite Brent Council saying it is unable to step in to prevent this.

Byron Court Primary School in North Wembley was ordered to become an academy by the Department for Education (DfE) after it dropped from an ‘outstanding’ rating in 2012 to an ‘inadequate’ following an inspection in November last year.

Inspectors from the education watchdog said the school's leadership was "overwhelmed".

Campaigners from the ‘Save Byron Court’ group have been fighting the decision, arguing that “choice is being taken away” from parents and children.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Campaigners at a protest in MarchCampaigners at a protest in March (Image: Save Byron Court)

On Monday (April 8), the group presented a petition to Brent Council in a cabinet meeting, but the council said it would be illegal to “oppose or even delay” the decision.

Located on Spencer Road in Wembley, the school’s ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report’ triggered an automatic response from the DfE, with the school set to come under the control of an academy trust, the Harris Federation, in an attempt to address the issues.

A petition signed by more than 1,300 people was submitted to the council, as the group thinks that academisation “will be dangerous” and is calling on the council to intervene to ensure Byron Court remains a community school.

Campaigners feel there were mitigating circumstances that resulted in the disastrous Ofsted inspection, including frequent changes of head teacher, disruption from Covid, and forthcoming changes to the Ofsted approach.

The council's lead member for children, young people and schools, Cllr Gwen Grahl, said it was “deeply regrettable” that the school had been rated as inadequate and acknowledged the “considerable distress and anxiety” it has caused to the school community.

The councillor assured parents that the council “are doing and will continue to do everything within our power” to make significant improvements to the school, as well as support staff members and give clarity to parents.

But Cllr Grahl emphasised that this “was not a local authority decision” and the council is legally “forced to comply” with it and must “take all reasonable steps to facilitate academisation”.

Addressing the cabinet, she said: “It is for that reason that cabinet, officers and the local authority as a whole cannot oppose or even delay this decision. We also have very little input into the timing of academisation or indeed when the school will next be inspected.”

She added: “As a lead member I fully understand how unjust this must feel to parents who feel they do not have a say in the future governance of the school. […] At the political level I feel it highlights a number of areas where education policy has become undemocratic and highly counteractive to delivering high quality education for pupils.

“It highlights first of all, chronic problems and a lack of trust with the current Ofsted system, which we know places undue pressures on staff and simplistically, at times cruelly, reduces the complexities of the running of a school to a single word judgement. […] Above all we want exactly what all of you here want: a safe, happy and fulfilling education for the children who attend the school, and we will keep working towards that.”

Brent & Kilburn Times: Campaigners outside the school in MarchCampaigners outside the school in March (Image: Save Byron Court)

However the Brent & Kilburn Times understands that this will not mean that the Save Byron Court group will be stepping down on their campaign.

Tanisha Phoenix, a member of the group, said: “We are off course disappointed by the response from the council at present, but this does not halt our campaign.

“Some of us have been away for the Easter but are regrouping this week and will be able to share next steps and restate our position regarding the opposition of the forced academy order.”