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The Village School: Union hails victory in battle to stop special needs school becoming academy

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:14 04 April 2018

Governors voted for the Village School to form a multi-academy trust, but the bid has reportedly been knocked back by the government. Picture: Brent NEU

Governors voted for the Village School to form a multi-academy trust, but the bid has reportedly been knocked back by the government. Picture: Brent NEU

Archant

Union officials have hailed a victory as controversial plans to convert a top Brent special needs school into an academy look to have been turned down.

Placard-bearing protestors at the gates of Kingsbury's The Village School in December. Picture: Brent NEUPlacard-bearing protestors at the gates of Kingsbury's The Village School in December. Picture: Brent NEU

A Department for Education source has reportedly told the National Education Union (NEU) that The Village School’s academisation plans have been shelved on grounds the proposed multi-academy trust (MAT) with Woodfield Academy “would not be big enough”. The DfE and the school have denied the claim, insisting that “the application is still under consideration and a decision will be taken in due course”.

Protestors against the move, who have held several strikes outside the Kingsbury school and the Brent Civic Centre over the past six months, had been resigned to the school becoming an academy after governors at both schools gave the proposal the green light in March.

The school, which caters for 270 students between the ages of three and 19 with special educational needs, is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and protesting members of Brent’s NEU had been fighting for it to remain a council asset.

Village School head Kay Charles said after the governors’ meeting, which had been met by placard-bearing teachers, that the decision was to push through with academisation was in the “best interests of the school”.

Members of Brent NEU on strike outside The Village School in December. Picture: Brent NEUMembers of Brent NEU on strike outside The Village School in December. Picture: Brent NEU

Mrs Charles told the Kilburn Times yesterday (Wednesday) that allegations of the plan being turned down were “based on a misunderstanding of how the process works”.

She said: “The DfE have not yet made their decision, but have instead requested additional information which we are in the process of providing.”

Hank Roberts of the NEU said this week he believes the governing body’s desire to convert the school into an academy has been one of “monumental incompetence”, going against the “overwhelming opposition of staff, parents and the community”.

No other schools were under consideration in the Village School’s consultation process, which ended earlier this year, but Mr Roberts is seeking confirmation from governors that the idea will be dropped.

“It would be shameful if any attempts were made to go secretly scrabbling around to find other schools to join them, enabling them to make a different proposal, without a full consultation,” he said.

Despite confusion reigning over whether the application has been scrapped, Cllr Jumbo Chan – a protestor against the move from the start – has welcomed the news that the proposal “may now be rejected”.

“The unnecessary decision by the majority of governing body to become an academy as part of a MAT was an unpopular one which defied a broad coalition of teachers and support staff, parents and campaigners.

“I – and many people from and outside of Brent – was incredibly proud to have supported school’s outstanding, inspirational and passionate teachers and support staff from the onset of their winter campaign. As we now move forward, it is of utmost importance that any popular view is robustly reflected and enforced.”

A council spokesman said: “The local authority has received no formal communications yet from the DfE on this matter.”

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