Education Secretary’s “totalitarian behaviour…is a disgrace to democracy”

Here is the text of an open letter to the Prime Minister, from the people who organised the recent petition against Michael Gove’s attempt to force Calder High to become a Sponsored Academy. The letter draws the Prime Minister’s attention to the Education Department’s “totalitarian behaviour”, which the letter writers explain is “a disgrace to democracy.” The petition, signed by 345 local people, has been sent to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

Open Letter to Prime Minister

25th February 2013.

The Rt Hon David Cameron, MP
10, Downing Street, London SW12 2AA

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: Calder High School, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

Our local High School, well respected and loved by the local community, after some temporary problems and OFSTED notices to improve, has rapidly improved since September 2012 with a new leadership team and staff/student/parent support. It has nevertheless been forced by your Department for Education to begin the process to convert to a sponsored academy, in January 2013. An OFSTED inspection on 13th/14th February has removed the notice to improve (to be confirmed).

This conversion is not wanted by the leadership team, governors, the local authority, the staff, pupils, parents or the local community. NOBODY has been consulted about the conversion. Many people do not understand what it involves. The governors have been bullied into co-operating with the conversion process by the DfE officials’ threat to instantly sack them and replace them with an Interim Executive Board, if they did not co-operate. They have been refused any written confirmation of the conversion process. We understand that similar practices are being employed by the DfE at other schools all over England, totally contradicting the Coalition programme for government statement “We will promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand…”.

We have today sent to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, a paper petition as follows:

“Petition regarding CALDER HIGH SCHOOL, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

We the undersigned, as stakeholders in Calder High School, do not want our community school of sixty years standing to be given away to an academy sponsor.

We demand that the Secretary of State for Education WITHDRAW the decision to impose Sponsored Academy status on Calder High School, which we know to be an adequate and currently improving school.

We demand a full and thorough PUBLIC consultation with all stakeholders before any future decisions about converting our school to an academy, are made.

 February 2013”

The petition has three hundred and forty-five signatures of stakeholders in the school – parents, pupils and local residents. This declared opposition to the conversion is undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg of actual opposition, as we have had very little time to collect signatures and no mass gatherings of e.g. all parents at the school.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have previously been able to command respect from most shades of political opinion within the population as, at least, credible electoral alternatives, but this totalitarian behaviour towards schools, parents and local communities is a disgrace to democracy.

We urge you to intervene to stop this process at Calder High School.

We thank you for your attention. We are concerned parents,

Yours sincerely,

June Eaton                 Jon Kimber

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