Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown 3:47 pm, 25th July 2019

I rise today to talk about the academisation of two schools in my constituency: Moulsecoomb primary school and Peacehaven community school. They are at opposite ends of my constituency and in different local authorities, one Labour-controlled, one Conservative-controlled.

Moulsecoomb primary school has had a total funding cut of £388,000, equivalent to £595 per pupil, since 2015, and in the last 12 months it has lost 11 staff, predominantly support staff. Moulsecoomb primary school is in an area of multiple deprivation and has risen to many challenges, including having great expertise in special educational needs provision, but unfortunately it does not fit into the Ofsted checkboxes.

Two years ago, the Ofsted inspectors came and rated the school “requires improvement”, so with the Labour-led local authority, the local community and the fantastic new head we went to work implementing all the Ofsted recommendations. I can say that, its performance in terms of almost all the indicators and results has improved, and all the recommendations of that previous Ofsted report have been implemented. But when Ofsted inspectors returned a few months ago, they rated it “inadequate” because for some reason it did not fulfil their new box-ticking exercise; the goalposts had been moved and the school now has an enforced academisation order. I have a message to those Ofsted inspectors that went to Moulsecoomb: “Frankly, I think you were inadequate and I think you should go back and reinspect—not you individuals; we should get a new bunch to come instead.”

This academisation is opposed by all groups on the council in Brighton and Hove— the Labour administration, supported by the Greens, and the Conservative opposition —so this is not a party political issue; this is an issue of justice and fairness, of which Moulsecoomb school has been robbed.

Peacehaven community school has had an even greater crippling cut: £1.2 million, equating to £627 per student. This is a school that we opened up in 2001 after a long campaign by my predecessor—my Labour predecessor, I might add—and the community. When I went to school, we were shipped over 10 miles up the road to the local secondary school, Priory School. Now, having a local secondary school in the community is so important. This school’s Ofsted rating is still “good”, but the county has used a devious device. Because the results dipped for one year, it has put forward an interim executive board. It abolished the governing body without consulting the parents or the co-operative trust that owned the school. The co-operative trust is opposing the academisation that is now being forced upon it by the county.

Since the executive board has taken control, we have had five headteachers in five years and results have worsened, rather than improved. Swale Academy Trust, which has of course supported the executive board, has set the framework to enable it to take over the trust. It has bullied the trust board to a stage at which it is threatening legal action against a legitimate trust that is holding out because it wants to consult the parents. This kind of academisation is totally wrong, and it is happening because East Sussex County Council is running a bare-bones statutory budget. The Conservative-led council is now doing only the minimum under the law, and it is unable to support the schools in that local area that it needs to support. We have garnered support from other local secondary schools that will support Peacehaven in its improvement and transition, but nothing has happened and we are not listened to. The staff have resorted to balloting on a strike, and I am supporting the National Education Union and the GMB in those actions.

I beg Ofsted to come back and re-evaluate Moulsecoomb Primary School and I beg the Secretary of State to rescind the order or at least allow a parent ballot on the issue. In regard to Peacehaven Community School, I beg East Sussex County Council to stop its love-in with Swale, which has failed the school, and to allow the school to be returned to the community where it belongs. The reality is that the academy programme is a failed programme set up by a previous Government, and we now need to reverse them all.