There I was yesterday wondering why the loathsome Toby Young was pointing at the Church of England, when the reason should have been obvious: this was an excellent deployment of the “look over there” tactic, to deflect attention from his pal Michael “Oiky” Gove, whose department is at this moment masterminding another forced academy conversion on a school whose stakeholders don’t want it.
Back in November, the Anti Academies Alliance (AAA), a campaign group “composed of unions, parents, pupils, teachers, councillors and MPs”, or, as Gove and his retinue of polecats like to call them, “the enemy”, alerted the local community in east London that the Dorothy Barley Junior School in Dagenham may be forced into academy status. This was not universally accepted.
Indeed, as the Barking and Dagenham Post noted last month, “Parents have voted overwhelmingly against government plans to convert a Dagenham primary school into an academy. A council referendum on Dorothy Barley Junior School, in Ivinghoe Road, found about 70 per cent of respondents wanting the school to remain under local authority control”. It counted for very little.
Even though, as the AAA noted, “The report of the ‘consultation’ over the forced academisation of Dorothy Barley Junior School was published on 7 February 2014. It shows that parents, staff, community members and the local MP Margaret Hodge, are overwhelmingly against removal of the school from democratically accountable local authority oversight”, someone had already made up their mind.
How so? Because, “Despite this, the same day, Lord Nash, Minister for Schools, informed staff that the school would be forced to become an academy ‘on 1 April or as soon as possible thereafter’, sponsored by the REAch2 Trust”. REAch2 is a primaries only academies trust. Therefore the school will be forcibly removed from local authority control without Gove consulting further.
You think this is strange? You’re in good company: the AAA quotes Justice Collins, who said “This is an extraordinary piece of legislation. The Secretary of State has wide powers to make an IEB (Interim Executive Board) and AO (Academy Order) and thereafter consult. On the face of it that is crazy. How can he be impartial by consulting thereafter?” which sounds worrying.
What the Dorothy Barley Primary School saga tells us is that, whatever the views of parents, teachers, councillors, MPs and other interested parties, “Oiky” Gove can please himself and force academisation on any school presently in the state sector, then talk about it at some later date, after the deed has been done. I hate to make the comparison, but what would the press say if a Labour minister had done this?
Democracy – the Tories’ preferred system, except when it gives the wrong result.