Crunch talk over Sunderland school’s future to be held tomorrow

Grindon Hall Christian School
Grindon Hall Christian School
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Grindon Hall Christian School governors will hold crunch talks over its future with a Government official tomorrow.

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.

Grindon Hall is a successful school. We want to keep and preserve it. This is being imposed upon us without real choice; it’s a case of take it or leave it and decide quickly. That is not fair on the governors, the staff, the parents and the children.

John Burn

The school’s 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.

Governors were due to meet the regional schools commissioner Janet Renou last week but the meeting was postponed until tomorrow so schools minister Lord Nash could respond to the founders’ call for the DfE to reconsider its stance that Chester-based Bright Tribe was the only option for the school.

Founder member John Burn said: “We have some important questions for which we need answers. Together with parents we all want the very best for the children and we do not have enough information at present to find out if the school would have a secure future with Bright Tribe.

“Grindon Hall is a successful school. We want to keep and preserve it. This is being imposed upon us without real choice; it’s a case of take it or leave it and decide quickly. That is not fair on the governors, the staff, the parents and the children.”

Parents have written to Mrs Renou separately asking that she take into account “the very strong feelings of Grindon Hall parents”.

Their letter says: “It is very important to us that the most appropriate sponsor is appointed and in our view that should be measured against five main criteria: academic track record, record of improving schools, financial stability, local presence and a commitment to maintain the Christian ethos of the school.

“The first and last of those criteria are the main reasons why the vast majority of us chose Grindon Hall for our children in the first place.

“From what we know, it is hard to see how the proposed sponsor would be able to fulfil the above criteria. We would not wish them to be imposed upon us without at least the opportunity to cast the net wider.

“We believe there are many outstanding schools in our region which would respect and defend our Christian ethos and be a good fit for our school. Their proximity would enable them to provide much more ‘on the ground’ support to the school.

“We are very clear that such a sponsor needs to be able not only to drive through the needed improvements in our school but also, and crucially, to maintain the very significant strengths and ethos to which we are all so passionately committed.”Peter Allen, from the parents’ action group, added: “The school ethos teaches our children about courtesy, honesty and respect; we’re just asking for the same from the DfE. We just want to ask them why?”