‘Dismayed and disappointed’: Redbridge Council vows to fight plans to academise borough’s Roman Catholic schools

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

Redbridge Council has blasted plans to “force academisation” on all Roman Catholic schools in the borough, and declared it will take action to fight any such move.

The council’s operational director of Education and Inclusion, Colin Stewart, wrote a letter to Robert Simpson, director of education at the Diocese of Brentwood, on Thursday, November 22, urging him to meet and discuss the institution’s plans to academise schools across the borough.

In it he voiced the council’s “unequivocal opposition” to the diocesan proposals and announced the council is “dismayed and disappointed” at the lack of consultation of parents and the local authority.

As reported by the Recorder earlier this month, schools in Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham will come under the control of the Good Shepherd Catholic Trust, which already oversees Palmer Catholic High, in Aldborough Road South.

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

Redbridge Council states that it will “work with schools, parents, professional associations” and colleagues in Barking and Dagenham to “take all possible steps” to fight against this.

Venda Prekumar, joint secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) for Redbridge, said: “The diocese haven’t given a compelling reason as to why they need to, at this juncture, form a multi-academy trust.”

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She said that Redbridge has a“remarkable” number of schools deemed by Ofsted as “good” or “excellent”, most of which are under Local Authority control.

She added: “There are a lot concerns about academies - stories about chief executives paying themselves a lot of money and the misuse of funds.

“I am not saying this is something that will happen in this case.

“But when they are getting such a bad name, it doesn’t make any sense.”

The NEU, Venda added, hopes to replicate the success of a campaign against the Diocese of Westminster’s similar plans to academise schools across north London which were dropped earlier this year.

Among the numerous reasons cited by Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams in favour of academisation is that “the direct funding of academies has reduced the capacity of local authorities” to support schools.

On November 15, the diocese held a meeting with concerned parents of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, in Chestnut Drive, Wanstead.

In a statement issued following the meeting, Mr Simpson said: “Parents are the primary educators of their children, so it is important that they are fully informed about the decisions we are making to enhance Catholic education in the Diocese.

“We are always happy to include parents in discussions as we consult on our academisation plans.”

He added that a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) would be posted on the school website to allay parents’ concerns.

No list has yet been posted: ourladyoflourdesrcprimary.org/cmat-news