EAST Sussex County Council has challenged Education Secretary Michael Gove to a face-to-face meeting after he described them as a barrier to the academy school programme.
The council has pointed out that they are currently co-sponsors of three secondary academies in Hastings and Eastbourne.
This, after Mr Gove sent a letter to all of East Sussex’s MPs last year asking them to persuade the council to “take a more constructive position” and for failing to actively pursue “sponsored academy solutions”.
At the time, East Sussex County Council described the letter as “baffling”. But today they have gone on the offensive, with Cllr Nick Bennett, the lead member for learning and school effectiveness pressing for a meeting with the education chief.
He said: “We continue to be puzzled by this inaccurate criticism of our attitude to academy status and are surprised the Secretary of State continues to make it.
“We would welcome the opportunity to give Mr Gove an up-to-date briefing in person so that he can understand the position in East Sussexbetter.
“Almost half of our secondary schools (11 out of 26) are now academies, and we are co-sponsors of three secondary academies in Hastings and Eastbourne.
“Also, last year, together with the Department for Education, we brokered sponsors for four primary academies.
In addition to this we have been in close dialogue with Govt officials, and a number of potential sponsors, about a number of under-performing schools and academy status.
“So it is simply not accurate for the Govt to suggest we are resistant to schools becoming academies.”
In his letter to MPs last year, the Education Secretary pointed out how academies were the way forward having taken over failing schools. However he criticised the council for putting up barriers.
He wrote: “Unfortunately, this transformative drive has not taken root in East Sussex, where too many schools continue to underperform. This is particularly the case for primary schools.”
And he added: “One of the main barriers to progress has been the position of the council.
“It has in the past worked well with officials to find sponsored academy solutions for four underperforming primary schools, but is now failing actively to pursue sponsored academy solutions for others.”