Controversial academy conversion halted due to coronavirus outbreak

A controversial academy conversion has been halted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

But the government says the “temporary pause” at Moulsecoomb primary school in Brighton is not part of a wider stoppage.

Baroness Berridge, the academies minister, said this was to “give both the school and the council the space to focus on immediate Covid-19 priorities”.

The Department for Education said the decisions to pause conversions were made on a case-by-case basis. Some were continuing.

The Local Government Association (LGA) wants all conversions suspended to allow council staff to concentrate on “essential work”.

It said conversions needed staff to work on transferring personnel, assets and financial agreements. Nearly 600 were in the pipeline.

Berridge said one of the reasons behind Moulescoomb’s pause was the “depth of unease” in the local community.

It also follows New Horizons trust stepping away from the school.

However, she said she was “encouraged” that the regional school commissioner’s team had been planning “to bring together the governing body of the school, and local authority officers, to discuss next steps in how we might identify an academy sponsor to provide school improvement”.

She was “keen” for  the department and local representatives to “work together in a spirit of collegiality”.

The conversion discussions would be picked up “as soon as it is appropriate to do so”, she added.

The school was rated inadequate in April last year. A monitoring inspection in February found leaders’ work to turn the school around was hampered because “at times, the headteacher has had to devote his energies to dealing with matters related to the academy order and the restructuring of staffing”.