The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“PARENTS fear a primary school will be left “rudderless” in the latest shake-up of an academy chain run by schools minister Lord Nash.
Diane George, who had been in charge of Millbank Academy in Erasmus Street, Pimlico, is moving to nearby Churchill Gardens primary school.
Both schools are part of the Future Academies chain, which also runs Pimlico Primary and Pimlico Academy in Lupus Street.
Ms George had been the “acting head” of Millbank since Alyson Russen became the “executive head” of all three primary schools following the shock departure of Analiese Briggs from the helm of Pimlico Primary in October.
Deputy head Kelly Teddy was then moved from Millbank to Pimlico Primary to fill the gap left by Ms Briggs.
The appointment of 27-year-old Ms Briggs had been met with fierce criticism because she was still studying for teaching qualifications when her role was announced.
She stepped down three weeks after the school opened, igniting a debate about unqualified academy school headteachers.
One parent told the West End Extra this week: “Who’s in charge of our school now? [Ms Russen] is going to come back and stand in as our headmistress, but how can she when she’s in charge of three other schools.”
Parents at Millbank said they had tried to arrange talks with school chiefs to raise their concerns over the frequent rotation of senior staff and the new curriculum.
Leader of Westminster Labour group Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove this week highlighting parents’ concerns.
He said: “The result of all of these changes in the last few months, is that there is no one in full-time, day-to-day control of Millbank Academy.”
The academy chain was founded by venture capitalist and Tory party donor Lord Nash and his wife Caroline. Lord Nash was appointed schools minister in January and serves under Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Cllr Dimoldenberg questioned Mr Gove’s willingness to take action at a school run by one of his junior ministers, adding: “Your complacent response to my earlier letter reinforces my view that you are not the right person to deal with these matters as Lord Nash, the founder of Futures, is one of your ministers and you will remain loyal to him whatever information you receive from me, from parents or from anyone else.”
One parent told the West End Extra: “Seeing this now, I’m just absolutely furious and lots of parents are so angry that we want to have a meeting with them. But we already asked for a meeting and they basically said no. They’re not interested and they don’t care. So, for me, I’m going to have to look at another school, because I can’t go there.”
Millbank has consistently been graded as “Outstanding” by schools watchdog Ofsted, who gave praise to the schools leadership structure. It became an academy a little over a year ago.
The decision to convert a successful school to academy status has been questioned by some parents. One said: “We were an outstanding school, so why would you need to change things. Basically our children are just guinea pigs and they are going to play around with them until they get their dynamic or whatever they want right. That’s my feeling.”
Ms Russen is now expected to return to Millbank Academy, while continuing in her role as executive head at all three schools.
Morale among parents is said to be at an all-time low and one mother said her child has set off to school in tears because of the new curriculum that was implemented when Future Academies took over.
The school discarded the national curriculum in favour of a “knowledge-rich” system that follows the ideals of American educationalist E.D Hirsch. It has been compared to rote-learning and sees children as young as five subjected to regular tests on their ability to retain facts.
One parent told the West End Extra: “I think kids are being pushed too hard. It’s test after test. Five-year-olds and six-year-olds going through this vigorous testing.”
Future Academies failed to respond to the West End Extra’s request for a comment.”