A primary school facing closure is now proposing to become an academy in a last desperate bid to keep the school alive.
Staff and parents from Sulivan Primary School, Fulham, have been fiercely fighting plans by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to close it and merge it with nearby New King’s Primary.
Governors at Sulivan have now applied to the Department for Education to transfer to an academy with the London Diocesan Board for Schools (LDBS). It will consult with parents in the next few weeks.
This is the same provider behind new free school Fulham Boys, which under the current council plans could relocate into Sulivan’s vacated site in Peterborough Road.
Campaigners have accused the Tory-led authority of supporting Education Secretary Michael Gove’s free school agenda above good community schools; New King’s is also consulting to join academy group Thomas’s London Day Schools.
Dennis Charman, chairman of H&F National Union of Teachers, admitted that Sulivan has reluctantly chosen academy status as its one and only option for survival.
“It’s better for people to be employed by an academy than be unemployed by the local authority. At Sulivan, all the staff face dismissal, the children face dispersal and the school faces demolition.
“As an NUT representative, I’m sorry that the only way forward is through an academy but if it provides the unique offer that Sulivan is providing, that’s the only way.”
Parents and supporters from Save Our Sulivan campaign handed in a petition of more than 2,100 signatures to Hammersmith Town Hall on Tuesday last week, the final day of the council’s consultation on the future of Sulivan and New King’s.
Headteacher Wendy Aldridge, in a letter to parents about the new academy proposal, said: “May I assure parents that a lot of time, research and care has gone into putting together this proposal. The governors, senior leaders and I strongly believe this would secure the best possible future for Sulivan and is an exciting vision for our community school.”
Sulivan would become the first LDBS community academy school, it would not impose a Christian curriculum or admissions criteria and would continue to be a diverse primary welcoming children of all faiths and none.
Inigo Woolf, chief executive of LDBS, said it supports both Sulivan and Fulham Boys although this complicates which school would get the site.
“The London Diocesan Board for Schools does not see this as a conflict of interest as we want to see good education provided for both primary and secondary education,” he said.
Councillor Georgie Cooney, cabinet member for education, said: “The council met with Sulivan this week to hear more about their initial proposal, which we will consider, based on the information available and we will try to include our response to it in our report on the overall consultation.
“The decision on approving academy status ultimately lies with the government.”