Francis Beckett

Another call this morning from Sian Thomas-Cutts, the South Dorset parent who is fighting the extraordinarily Stalinist academy proposal on the Isle of Portland.

As usual with academies, it’s all hustle, hustle, so no one has time to think. 

Sian and her fellow campaigners invited the two sponsors, Professor Stephen Heppell and the country council, to a meeting to explain their proposal. They declined, and said they would advice Ms Thomas-Cutts of the “correct communication channels.”

The very short feasibility study closes on 21 April, and the consultation period on 17 September.

Sian has two children at one of the island’s junior schools, and she’s a governor there. The proposed academy would be an all-through school, so all six junior schools would close.  “At the moment, if you don’t like the regime at one of them, you can send your child to another” she says.  “They’re taking away all parental choice.”

Sian says: “There’s no proper consultation, it’s just talk and spin.  They have cut the consultation period down from six months to three months. They have told us the secondary school can’t have new buildings without the academy.”

The sponsor was to be United Learning Trust, who have distinguished themselves by taking all the extra government money available for academies and still manage to run a failing school.  ULT dropped out and now the sponsor is an individual, Professor Stephen Heppell from Bournemouth University, who’s apparently an expert in education and IT.

Professor Heppell, if the proposal goes through, will have absolute control of the schooling of all the island’s children.  Activist parents like Sian will be squeezed out. Professor Heppell’s word will be law.