Following the proposals for Highfield Humanities College to convert to academy status, Gordon and his office have been very active both here in Blackpool and at Westminster to seek clarification and assurances about the future status of the school.
Below is a letter that Gordon has sent to the Residents Group and parents about those activities and the current position.
I am writing to you and your colleagues and those parents I met on September 25th. Since then I have been equally concerned to try and get progress and clarification on the issues and claims that have been made. I touched on what I was doing in the note I sent to HRAG on October 6th. But both before and since that note I have been making strong and extensive representations to the relevant parties.
I have spoken to TET and emphasised that the way the Governors’ proposal appeared in the media without prior warning has heightened concerns. I have therefore strongly urged them to increase their engagement with parents and to spell out clearly that the status of Highfield as a non-denominational school will not be changed and that TET would have no intention of doing so.
At the same time I have had discussions with officials in the Department for Education and underlined the concerns that parents and others have expressed .I have asked the Department to make a clear and unambiguous statement that the current status quo of being a non-faith school will remain along with the curriculum and teaching values that go with it.
In addition to this I have spoken both to the Regional Schools Commissioner Paul Smith and to the Schools Minister responsible for these issues, Lord Nash. I have emphasised personally to them the need to reassure parents in this matter .I have also suggested that it would be helpful in this respect if responses to the consultation should have an independent assessment applied to the responses received.
I have also taken advice from the House of Commons Library researchers, who operate independently of Government, who have confirmed to me that schools cannot make significant changes to ANY of their characteristics as part of becoming an academy.
I have also spoken to Blackpool Council as the residual Local Authority and stressed to them that it would be very helpful for them to emphasise their commitment to Highfield s non-denominational status. They have agreed to do this and to make that clear to both parents and the DfE.
I hope that the focus I have given on these issues and the discussions that have occurred will shortly produce responses on the issues of concern as I have mentioned. They should I hope go a significant way to addressing the anxieties that have been raised. I thought it was important to be able to give as clear and comprehensive a picture of where I think we are now following the representations and actions which I said I would undertake following the September 25th meeting.
The key issues around how to achieve academic and overall improvements that Highfield urgently needs must not be neglected in this process since they are central concerns for the students and their families. I hope reassurance on process will allow those now to be properly examined, and on that as well as the issues I’ve covered here I will continue to be vigilant and responsive.
Gordon Marsden - MP for Blackpool South