A controversial decision to turn Elton Primary School into an academy has been approved after a crunch meeting of governors.

Governors at the school in Alston Street “reluctantly” signed the papers last Thursday in front of Gena Merrett, a Department for Education adviser, which confirm that the school will become an academy.

If the order had not been signed, the current board of governors could have been replaced to force the move through.

It is believed that the school could become an academy as soon as May 1 this year.

It has also emerged that Bury College, which is the lead sponsor for Radcliffe Primary, which became an academy on January 1, could also become the lead sponsor for Elton Primary.

Charlie Deane, principal at Bury College, attended the meeting and spoke to governors.

The confirmation of plans at Elton comes after parents launched a protest group to oppose the move, and raised the matter at council meetings.

Labour-run Bury Council and the school’s headteacher Tony Emmott have both come out in opposition, but Bury North MP David Nuttall has backed the plan.

Paul Sandiford, a parent-governor and a member of the protest group, who attended the meeting, said: “It was with much regret that we signed it, but there was no choice. It was a really difficult decision, but the Department for Education has come down really strong and said if you don’t sign it, we will remove you and force it through.

“The group has put a lot of effort into this but I don’t think that is lost. Maybe someone somewhere in this government or in a future government will sit up and take notice and change the law.”

Mr Sandiford said those attending were impressed by comments made by Mr Deane, and that it would be preferable to be run by an organisation closer to home. He added: “It is disappointing, but on the assumption that the deal with the college goes through, we feel that this is a better option than some of the other chains who are running academy schools across the country.

“I felt the school was making good progress with the current arrangements in place, and I do feel that the footings are in place already for the academy to be a success.”