PARENTS have overwhelmingly rejected plans to convert Oxford’s Cheney School to an academy.

The news comes as it was revealed the school has been asked to consider acting as a sponsor to Bayards Hill Primary School in Barton, which has been told by the Department for Education to become an academy to drive up standards.

Cheney was originally due to take a decision on whether to convert to academy status, free of county council control, last month, but the decision was postponed.

Parents have been invited to an information evening about the proposal at the school on Wednesday, May 16, at 7.30pm.

Of the 139 parents who responded to the consultation, 105, or 68 per cent, were against the change.

There are about 1,470 pupils, making the response rate among parents just under 10 per cent.

Twenty-nine of the 50 members of staff who took part also opposed the plans, and of the 25 pupils who responded, 12 did not want the school, in Cheney Lane, to become an academy.

Yesterday headteacher Jolie Kirby was unavailable for comment. But she has previously told the Oxford Mail the school would gain £225,000 in funding in the first year, if it becomes an academy.

She added: “I understand people’s anxieties, but the governing body would not be looking into it if they did not think there were real benefits for the student population.”

About 60 parents have joined a protest group, Cheney Parents Against Academy Status.

One of them, Kate Meagher –who lives in Divinity Road, East Oxford, and has 18-year-old children Asma’u and 16-year-old Seyi at the school – said: “I think one of the core reasons they have postponed making a decision was there was such an overwhelming response among staff, students and parents against academisation.

“We think the senior leadership team is doing a great job and the governors are trying in really horrible circumstances to do what is the best thing for Cheney. But if it converts, they will be running what effectively becomes a business.

“Anybody thinking clearly and calmly will see it’s not in the best interests of the school.”

She said the costs the academy would become responsible for, such as insurance, would far outweigh any financial gains.

And Bridget Henderson, from Howard Street, who has a daughter in Year Eight, said: “Cheney is already a good school and a popular school. We haven’t been shown any evidence that becoming an academy will make it better.”

A link with Bayards Hill would be similar to an arrangement between Cherwell School, which has recently converted to academy status, and Cutteslowe Primary School, which aims to convert next year.

Cherwell has agreed in principle to act as sponsor to the primary, which is in special measures.

Bayards Hill Primary School headteacher Keith Ponsford was last night unavailable to comment.

* An academy is a publicly-funded school which controls its budget, admissions and curriculum.