PARENTS are demanding a ballot to determine the future of a popular Sheffield secondary school, after governors announced they were in favour of seeking academy status.
Fir Vale School has the right to automatically convert itself into an academy as it has been given an outstanding rating by Ofsted inspectors.
Parents called a public meeting to provide a platform for opposition to the plans and also lobbied a governors’ meeting where the issue was being discussed.
Governors believe the change would bring the school financial benefits and extra independence and they say that they have been looking at the option for the last nine months.
But parents feel the consultation process has been too short, has not included all the families affected and has been biased in favour of accepting the plans.
The council’s executive director for children Dr Sonia Sharp has also warned the school that it must listen to what the local community has to say.
Pitsmoor mum Julia Shergold, whose daughter is in Year 7 at Fir Vale, said parents felt consultations were being rushed: “We were only officially told just before half term, giving us less than three weeks to consider this - and the feeling was that the governors had already taken a decision in principle
“All the information given out by the school has been in favour of academies and we think families deserve to hear both sides of the argument before any decision is made.
“We are also concerned that parents at our feeder schools have not had a say and these proposals affect them more than anyone. We feel that just sending out letters does not amount to consultation.
“There’s a general feeling that if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Fir Vale is already an outstanding school which is highly popular in the community.”
Burngreave councillor Ibrar Hussain said a petition had been started calling for a full public meeting and an extension of the consultation period.
He said: “We also want a ballot of all parents, including parents from Fir Vale’s feeder schools.
“A three-week consultation is too short and has been by letter only and many parents are unaware of the real understanding of what these proposals mean both for now and the future.”
Chair of governors Tina Ball said the body believed academy status offered potential benefits to the school which could not be ignored: “We have no plans to change our vision and ethos, our name, staff terms and conditions, our curriculum or admissions procedures, or our governing body composition.
“If we become an academy this will bring us a financial benefit and as governors we have to take this into account and we also believe it will offer us increased autonomy to stay the kind of school we want to be.”
Dr Sharp said: “Any school going down the academy route should make sure they have the consent of not only current but also any future parents. It is critical this is done with community backing as once it is done it is an irreversible decision and one that should not be taken lightly.
“We would urge the school to listen to what parents are saying and we have every confidence that the governing body at Fir Vale will do so.”