City plans to fight Government in courts over school takeover
DERBY City Council is taking legal action against the Government in a bid to block its plans to turn Sinfin Community School into an academy.
Earlier this month, the councillor in charge of children's services in Derby attacked the Government for ordering the takeover of the school.
Councillor Martin Rawson said Education Secretary Michael Gove was putting his "pet political project" ahead of children's education by installing an interim board at Sinfin School, paving the way for it to become an academy.
Mr Gove made the move after the Department for Education said the school had a "long history of under-performance". Across the country, it is only the fifth time that the Government has taken such steps.
But Mr Rawson said the Government was using old data and ignoring the fact that the school had achieved a 42% pass rate for pupils gaining five or more GSCEs – above the national floor of 40% at which concern is called for.
Now, a spokeswoman for the city council confirmed it had begun "legal proceedings" against the Government. She said council chiefs had threatened High Court proceedings challenging the proposals – a move that could cost the authority around £10,000 if the Government does not back down.
It comes despite Britain's education inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, publishing a report that claimed education standards in Derby ranked among the worst in the country.
The report found Derby is the second-worst performing of all local authority areas in terms of a pupil's chance of attending a good primary school.
The city is also in the bottom 20% of the table for the chances of a pupil attending a good secondary school.
But Mr Rawson said challenging the Government's stance on Sinfin Community School was the right thing to do. He said: "There is slim evidence that simply changing the name of a school to academy improves standards nationally or that they would in Derby.
"Our schools are improving by working together and working with the council.
"My main priority is the education of children at Sinfin School. I believe the best way to raise standards is for the school to work with the experienced staff at the council rather than beginning a journey towards privatisation."
Andrew Bunyan, strategic director of children and young people, added: "We have an improvement journey in place with the school and we would like to be able to continue it."
Sinfin Community School has been working on its improvements since an Ofsted inspection last year and their GCSE results in 2012 were up again on the previous year's.
But a Government spokesman insisted it was right to demand a takeover.
He said: "Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average."