Oxted School capitulates to Howard Partnership

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Oxted School to become academy despite ‘tough fight’ from parents

12:39, 1 May 2015 By Candice Ritchie

The school will become part of The Howard Partnership Trust (THPT) but some parents are still unconvinced by the proposals

Oxted School is to become an academy after governors unanimously agreed on the change, despite months of objections and what has been described as a “tough fight” from parents.

The school, in Bluehouse Lane, will become part of The Howard Partnership Trust (THPT), with which it has been working for the past 18 months.

In a letter to parents chair of governors, Brian Taylor, said: “In reaching our decision, we have independently considered alternative options available to us, done our research and considered all your comments.

“Our decision has been made with thought and care.

“We believe that remaining fully comprehensive, becoming an academy and formalising our relationship with THPT is in the best educational interests of our students.

“[It] will allow us to build on the progress already made, whilst maintaining all the things that make Oxted School special.”

The governing body previously approved the school’s move to foundation status, despite 84 parents or carers raising concerns about the plans, which led to the start of a consultation process for becoming an academy.

There were 60 responses to the consultation, which ran until March 27. They included 21 objections and 33 in favour, according to a Facebook post by MP Sam Gyimah.

An online petition against the changes – led by Caroline Eastell and Hazel Holt, two mothers of children at Oxted School – reached more than 1,400 signatures.

The pair also set up the ‘Against Oxted Academy’ Facebook page and organised a protest in January with parents and pupils campaigning against the proposed change.

Miss Eastell said: “That’s a lot of people they are not listening to. We were on 1,382 [signatures] forever, a lot of people removed their names.

“I think they might have heard our side first, then spoke to people and came away with the [belief] it’s a good idea.

“They have left, but we still have that many people.”

MP Sam Gyimah shared his support of the change on Facebook, writing that it was an “exciting new chapter” and that he would “continue to support the school in this next phase to ensure it delivers the excellent [service] the pupils deserve.”

Miss Eastell said the group are “all very confused” after she wrote to the Department of Education raising her concerns and was told the final decision on the proposals would be made after the general election.

She said: “Someone has emailed them again. It’s become political. People haven’t had any response from Sam [Gyimah] at all, he hasn’t responded to calls.

“People are saying he has turned his back on us.

“We had a meeting where he listened and challenged us, he was totally supportive, he wrote a letter to the governors which was amazing. Then he met with them and completely turned.

“He’s lost votes on that.”

“We knew it was going to happen when [THPT] walked through the door, but [the campaigning] was to make them realise a lot of people didn’t like it and didn’t want it. It was always going to be a tough fight.

“The group I’m talking for will be there still if they put a foot wrong, if the children are getting unfair treatment we will stand up to it.

“We knew [it would happen] but it does rile you up again. Everyone’s had Easter off and relaxed and it puts it in the forefront of your mind again.”

Full story and pix here