Sunderland free school founders claim ‘unanimous’ backing from parents against Government’s ‘hostile takeover’

Grindon Hall Christian School

Grindon Hall Christian School

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The founders of Sunderland’s free school say they have received unanimous backing from parents in their campaign against ‘a hostile takeover.’

The Echo revealed on Tuesday that bosses at Grindon Hall Christian School claim they are being ‘rail-roaded’ by the Department for Education (DfE) into accepting multi-academy trust Bright Tribe, run by North West venture capitalist Michael Dwan, as sponsor.

It was heartening to get their support as they unanimously called on the DfE to provide other options of sponsor for the school that would maintain our high academic standards, be based in the North-East and value the Christian ethos of the school.

John Burn

The school has been told it must demonstrate within two weeks that it is making progress on talks.

The founders say they do not object to the principle of a sponsor for the school, but they have concerns that Bright Tribe is not a suitable fit for Grindon Hall and want to see more effort made to find a local sponsor.

Around 350 parents attended a meeting at the school and agreed to protest against the imposition of Bright Tribe and urge the DfE to look for a sponsor closer to home.

Founder John Burn, who outlined the founders’ concerns at the meeting, said: “We know parents of Grindon Hall feel passionately about the school and it was great to see so many turn out to hear about the proposals for its future.

“It was heartening to get their support as they unanimously called on the DfE to provide other options of sponsor for the school that would maintain our high academic standards, be based in the North-East and value the Christian ethos of the school.

“We need a sponsor which has a track record of improving schools.

“We want the very best for the children and we are not prepared to accept a sponsor about whom we have very little information.

“It’s clear parents want greater choice and to be consulted much more closely.”

Grindon Hall was placed into special measures in January after a visit by Ofsted inspectors, who said the school needed to improve the quality and impact of leaders. The decision remains subject to a formal complaint.

Bright Tribe has defended its record on improving struggling schools.

“Bright Tribe Trust is a DfE approved academy sponsor and has sponsored 12 schools in the past 20 months – 11 of them failing schools – all of which are now on the pathway to improvement,” it said.

“We have a dedicated team of education and operational professionals with vast experience in the field of education, who work in regional hubs located in each of our school communities.

“Our head office provides board level support and national infrastructure services. The combination of local hubs, supported by head office operations, helps bring about rigorous and sustained school improvement across all our schools.”