GOVERNORS have been urged to stand in the way of a government order to convert a school into an academy.

Campaigners, led by a 16-year-old former pupil, lobbied governors outside a meeting at Prestwich Arts College which was rated inadequate by education watchdog Ofsted earlier this year.

But the chair of governors, Cllr Eamonn O'Brien, has said that the decision is beyond their control. Speaking after the meeting, Cllr O'Brien reaffirmed the governors' commitment to do "everything possible" to make improvements to the school.

He said: "We did not choose to become an academy, and it is not within our power to stop it, but despite this we are doing all we can to positively influence the future direction of the school. To this point, we have brought in additional external support for the school, improved our behaviour policies and made essential changes to the curriculum.

“Understandably, people have concerns and doubts about the academisation agenda of the government. In my role as a councillor I have always opposed – and will continue to oppose – the government's cuts to the local education authority and academisation policy, but walking away in protest will not help improve Prestwich Arts College.

"As locally appointed governors, it is our duty to ensure that the school remains an essential part of our community, despite academisation, and we are confident we can achieve this."

National Education Union representative Karen Parkin, who joined campaigners outside the school last week, said there is no evidence that converting schools to academies is beneficial.

She said that the union supports the campaign which has been organised by ex-pupil Josh Harcup.

Ex-teacher Roy Wilkes, whose children attended the school, also campaigned against the closure of the school back in 2006.

He said: “We are asking the governors to not comply with the academy order because we feel if we hold out there’s a good possibility that there may be a change of government that would reverse the academy programme. Why put the school through the trauma?

The Prestwich resident used St Monica's as an example of a school "holding out" despite a forced academy order after an "inadequate" rating.

However, Cllr O'Brien said that it is not fair to compare the situation at Prestwich Arts College to that at St Monica's which is a faith school.

The neighbouring school faced a delay while it waited for an appropriate faith-based multi-academy trust to be created and later improved.

He added: “I am happy to reiterate my commitment that once we know more about the next steps in this process, we will share this with the school and wider community."