Plans to academise Roman Catholic schools across Redbridge sparks outrage

Parents gather in protest outside Our Lady of Lourdes Primary, in Chesnut Drive, on Tuesday, October

Parents gather in protest outside Our Lady of Lourdes Primary, in Chesnut Drive, on Tuesday, October 30. Photo: Paul Donovan - Credit: Archant

The Diocese of Brentwood has announced plans to turn all Roman Catholic schools in Redbridge into academies – to the outrage of Wanstead parents and councillors.

The governing body of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, in Chestnut Drive, yesterday (November 5) sent parents a letter inviting them to attend a meeting with diocese representatives to go through the academisation plans on Thursday, November 15.

This comes after around 70 parents and councillors held a meeting in protest at The Manor House, in High Street, on Tuesday, October 30 and a demonstration outside the school the following morning drew in around 20 parents.

The meeting on Tuesday was attended by Cllrs Paul Donovan, Jo Blackman, Martin and Ann Sachs and Elaine Norman.

As an academy, the school would become independent of the local authority and receive its funding directly from the Department of Education.

Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams announced that he had “initiated the expansion and development of Catholic, deanery-based multi-academy trusts (Catholic MATs) across the diocese” in a letter sent out on September 9 this year.

This process has “already begun” and will take about three years to complete, he continued.

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Schools in Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham will come under the control of the Good Shepherd Catholic Trust, which already oversees Palmer Catholic High, in Aldborough Road South.

Three further MATs will be set up to oversee schools across Havering, Waltham Forest and Newham. Among the numerous reasons cited for the change is that “the direct funding of academies has reduced the capacity of local authorities” to support schools.

He also wrote that a MAT would help “enable a new spirit of collaboration” among Catholic schools.

Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for children and young people, said that Redbridge Council would be opposing this motion.

She said:“I am proud of our schools and the fantastic level of education they provide to our children.

“These high standards are the result of many years of co-operation and hard work between our schools and the council.

“Why put these achievements at risk?”

She added: “There is no guarantee that a multi-academy trust will continue to maintain these standards and the council will have no oversight of these schools.”

A formal consultation for Our Lady of Lourdes parents has been extended from October 31, with an end date to be confirmed.

The Diocese of Brentwood has been contacted for comment.