The Bridge School in Hungerford Road, Holloway
Published: 11 May, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
HEADTEACHERS and governors of two schools are at loggerheads over plans by one to opt out of local authority control and go it alone.
The schism emerged at a public meeting into plans by The Bridge School, in Hungerford Road, Holloway, which teaches special needs pupils, to become an academy.
Opponents of the move also criticised headteacher, Penny Barratt, accusing her of failing to consult properly with parents and of being motivated by “prestige”.
Ms Barratt had declined an invitation to attend the meeting and was not there to defend herself.
She told the Tribune yesterday (Thursday) that a decision on academy status would be taken by governors, who would consider consultation responses and feedback from parents and staff.
Union officials who called the meeting at Hilldrop Community Centre, in Hilldrop Road, on Wednesday said they had done so because the head had refused to organise a public meeting.
Teachers, parents and governors spoke mainly against the plans.
They revealed disquiet among headteachers and governors of neighbouring schools over the plans.
The government wants all primary schools to become academies, which means they receive their funds directly from Westminster.
But at Wednesday’s meeting it was argued that because The Bridge is a special school there was no discernable benefit from going it alone.
Labour councillor Jessica Asato said: “The key test has to be whether this move will improve the education of pupils.
"If it’s just to make Penny feel her school is bit more glitzy we have to wonder if this is the right decision.”
Labour councillor Barry Edwards, chair of governors at Hungerford primary school, which shares a site with The Bridge, said that staff and governors there were concerned about what would happen to shared facilities.
“If the Bridge becomes an academy it doesn’t have to worry about nutritional standards, but Hungerford does – so what happens in the kitchens which we share?
“Do we have to build new kitchens?”
Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn added that the council provided a safety net for schools in case something went wrong.
“When an academy fails I’m not sure whose head rolls,” he said.
A teacher at the school, who identified himself only as Tim, spoke strongly in favour of the proposals.
“A lot of staff are against it turning into an academy, but others are in favour,” he said.
“The general point is about being in control of our own destiny.”
Alasdair Smith, president of Islington NUT, said: “I have a great respect for Penny but we are being asked to just take her word.
"I’m afraid the school will be seen in a negative light because of the mishandling of this consultation.”
Ms Barratt said yesterday: “I can absolutely guarantee that the governors and I entered this process to determine whether or not academy status is right for The Bridge.
"The decision will be taken at the extraordinary governors’ meeting.
“Consultation responses will inform the decision along with the feedback governors have had from parents and staff in meetings that have been held.”
Consultation on the future of the school ends today (Friday).
The decision will be made on May 31.