‘Behind closed doors’: Barking and Dagenham Council slams plans to academise borough’s Roman Catholic schools

Evelyn Carpenter. Picture: LBBD

Evelyn Carpenter. Picture: LBBD - Credit: Archant

Barking and Dagenham Council has blasted “behind closed doors” plans to academise all Roman Catholic schools in the borough.

Neighbouring Redbridge Council has also vowed to take action - working with Barking and Dagenham Council - to fight the Diocese of Brentwood’s plans to form a joint Catholic multi-academy trust across both boroughs.

Council leader Darren Rodwell has written to Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams calling for a meeting and expressing his concerns.

As reported by the Post earlier this month, schools in Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham will come under the control of the Good Shepherd Catholic Trust, which already oversees Palmer Catholic High, in Ilford.

As an academy, schools will become independent of the local authority and receive their funding directly from the Department for Education.

Cllr Evelyn Carpenter, cabinet member educational attainment and school improvement, summarised her concerns in a statement released yesterday.

She said: “Schools need to focus on pupils, their teaching and learning – not structures. Restructuring is destabilising for managers, teachers, parents, carers and pupils.”

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She fears academisation “may cause some of the borough’s most talented Catholic teaching staff to find careers outside Barking and Dagenham”.

The borough’s schools are also rapidly improving under the current system, she highlighted, with nine out of 10 rated either good or outstanding. She added that the council has not been contacted or consulted by the diocese, making it appear as if plans are being carried out “behind closed doors with all discussion stifled”.

Among reasons cited by Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams in favour of academisation is that “the direct funding of academies has reduced the capacity of local authorities” to support schools.

In a statement issued recently, education director Robert Simpson said: “Parents are the primary educators of their children, so it is important that they are fully informed about the decisions we are making to enhance Catholic education in the diocese. We are always happy to include parents in discussions as we consult on our academisation plans.”