Concerns raised about plans to convert Derbyshire secondary school into academy

Concerns have been raised over plans to convert a Derbyshire secondary school into an academy.

Friday, 18th December 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 18th December 2020, 4:48 pm

Highfields School in Matlock said it wants to make the change to ‘secure the best standards of education possible’ for students.

If its academisation is approved, the school – which is situated across two sites in Upper Lumsdale and Starkhomes Road – would be run by the East Midlands Education Trust, based in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire.

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Campaigners from Hands Off Highfields at the Starkholmes site.

The school would move away from Derbyshire County Council control and have more sway over its opening and closing times, behaviour policies, staff pay, curriculum and uniform.

An online petition against the plans – called Hands Off Highfields – has so far been signed by more than 500 people.

It states: “Academisation permanently removes the democratic control of a school from the community.

“We want our local secondary school to remain under local authority democratic control in Derbyshire not Nottingham.

Campaigners from Hands Off Highfields at the Lumsdale site.

“Highfields is a good school which provides a balanced curriculum for all our children in Matlock and surrounding area.”

Concerned parents have been holding socially-distanced protests against the proposals.

One of them, Helen Cunningham, said: “I am shocked that they would try to rush this through now during Covid-19 when parents and families in Matlock are under so much pressure.

“Many parents I have spoken to don't even know this is happening.

“In a time of Covid when physical meetings are impossible, no meaningful consultation can take place over such an important issue.

“Not everyone has access to technology to join a Zoom meeting.

“Highfields is a community asset for the people of Matlock.”

A statement from the governing body of Highfields School said: "The governors of Highfields are interested in securing the best standards of education possible for our amazing students.

“With this in mind we recently consulted informally with stakeholders regarding joining a trust and received a broadly positive response.

“We therefore applied for in principle agreement to proceed to formal consultation so we can find out more about the views of stakeholders.

“However, we paused this progress to allow school staff to focus on dealing with the challenges provided by Covid-19.

“Governors will meet again in the new year to review their position.

“Governors will always aim to balance staff and parent views alongside the need to improve the education of our students.”

A county council spokesperson added: “It’s our job to facilitate the conversion of a school to an academy if that’s what a school decides.

“We’d always be supportive of schools making the right decision for them and in their own best interests and we work well with many multi-academy trusts across the county.”

Derbyshire secondaries The Ripley Academy and John Flamsteed Community School are already part of the East Midlands Education Trust.

Its website states: “The East Midlands Education Trust was formed in September 2014 with a mission to raise the educational standards and improve the life chances of students within the partnership.”

Highfields School has around 1,330 students and 160 members of staff.

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