Michael Gove orders takeover of Sinfin Community School
EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove has ordered a special board to take over a Derby secondary school because he is unhappy over the way it is being run.
The move at Sinfin Community School is only the fifth time nationally that the Government has taken this action and installed an interim executive board to "give leadership and expertise".
It was taken six weeks after Lord Hill of Oareford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, wrote to Sinfin's governing body and Derby City Council to say he was "minded to make an academy order" for the "failing" school.
The new board is made up of five members and includes a member of the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, based in Nottingham.
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One of its first jobs will be to begin a consultation on whether the school should become an academy, out of control of the city council.
The position of head teacher Steve Monks is now in jeopardy.
The school's governing body will be dismissed, with the exception of one governor who will remain on the interim board.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "We have serious concerns about standards at Sinfin Community School.
"This is a school with a long history of under-performance and the school was placed in special measures earlier this year.
"We cannot just stand by when a school is failing children – we need to step in and make changes quickly.
"The interim executive board will give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve."
Ministers have made it clear that they believe the best way to turn round a consistently under-performing school is the strong external support from an academy sponsor.
The spokesman added: "Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average."
The Government has taken action before Derby City Council, which is opposed to academies, was able to put in place its own interim executive board, with the ultimate aim of making the school into a co-operative trust.
Mr Monks told shocked staff at Sinfin yesterday afternoon that the Department for Education had stepped in to take over.
Dave Wilkinson, branch secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "All the Secretary of State's claims of local and community accountability for academies ring hollow in the face of his actions.
"The solution was the city council interim executive board, which Mr Gove has acted to prevent.
"His actions make an agreed solution for staff less likely and strike action more likely."
Sinfin was below the floor standard of 35% of pupils gaining five or more A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths in 2009 and 2010. But it had broken through the 35% barrier in 2011 and this has improved to 42% in 2012.
Last night a city council spokesman said: "The council is aware of the Secretary of State's intention to impose an interim executive board at Sinfin Community School.
"The council remains committed to supporting all of the city's schools to raise standards and performance."
Academy status would place the school outside local authority control and would mean it being run by a private sponsor.
It was unclear last night whether this would be Greenwood Dale, which runs 12 schools as academies, mainly in the East Midlands.
Co-operative trust status would have seen the school still linked to the council but also working with businesses, other schools or colleges and with parents having a say in its running.
The school's governing body did not wish to comment at this stage.
Mr Monks said he was in the process of meeting with the interim board but did not want to comment further.
Earlier in the year, a proposal for Chellaston Academy to act as sponsor for Sinfin's bid to be an academy fell through when Chellaston head Ray Ruszczynski claimed there was not enough money being provided by the Government to carry it out.
Teaching unions have opposed the conversion of Sinfin to an academy for more than four years, when it was mooted under the Labour government but rejected by the then LibDem city council.