Parents fight to stop special school becoming academy

ks180160-1 Chi Littlegreen Protest   phot kate'Janine Young,left, Hayley Rose and Keeli Bennett.ks180160-1 SUS-181004-191628008
ks180160-1 Chi Littlegreen Protest phot kate'Janine Young,left, Hayley Rose and Keeli Bennett.ks180160-1 SUS-181004-191628008

Parents of pupils at Littlegreen School in Compton are petitioning to ‘save’ the school from being taken over by an academy trust.

But families fear the upheaval would be ‘disastrous’ for pupils who are particularly sensitive to new rules and new people and who had just begun to settle and thrive under the direction of their new headteacher.

Hayley Rose, from North Bersted, said: “It’s just not fair on these children, they need consistency, they don’t need any more change.

“They’re all getting on really well with the headteacher now and I think a year down the line we’re going to be in a really different place.

“As a parent I really don’t want this to happen.”

Her petition to Ofsted to reinspect the school and prevent Littlegreen from becoming part of Solent Academies Trust has already attracted more than 680 signatures.

A spokesman for Ofsted told the Observer it will be carrying out a monitoring visit ‘in due course’ but the Department of Education decided academy conversions.

The Department of Education has said the Regional Schools Commissioner could consider revoking the academy order in ‘very exceptional circumstances’ if sufficient improvements were made but the commissioner had a statutory duty to seek an academy sponsor in such cases.

Petitioners are arguing that measures brought in by headteacher Pam Ridgwell this year, such as rewards for good work and extra staff, have already proved effective.

Keeli Bennett from Felpham said: “It’s frustrating because the law’s changed now, if this had happened two years ago, the head would have been given a chance, six months to improve the school.

“And Miss Ridgwell has improved the school, so she should be given another six months to continue those improvements.”

MP for Chichester Gillian Keegan has said she has written to the Secretary of State asking him to provide reasons for the decision and ensure formal processes for parents to voice concerns.

Janine Young, from Chichester, is worried the school could lose the small community feel that had helped transform her son Jack.

She said: “He loves Littlegreen as it is, we’ve never had a problem at Littlegreen.

“I’m sad, really sad that it could become an academy, when it’s such a unique, family orientated school.”

Executive headteacher of Solent Academies Trust Alison Beane said each of the trust’s three schools was individual and it wasn’t ‘one size fits all’.

She said: “There really needn’t be any great upheaval if we get, primarily, the same staff team teaching in the school.

“Our trust isn’t on of those great big trusts, where every school has to be the same, we have made it very clear that every school has to be its own individual school, with its own character.”

She said Littlegreen would benefit from shared expertise in autism and the county council would continue to decide admissions and the majority of the school’s budget.

She said she could not comment as to possible changes to how Littlegreen is run as the trust is still carrying out due diligence.