DEMANDS to delay the conversion of a failing school into an academy until the coronavirus outbreak has been contained have been backed by the local MP.

Bury South MP Christian Wakeford said he supports campaigners’ calls to move the date for the formal conversion of Prestwich Arts College into an academy until December.

The school, which was rated inadequate by government watchdog Ofsted, is in the process of being converted into an academy by the Rowan Learning Trust.

The newly-elected MP said he is “broadly supportive” of academies but agrees with anti-academy campaigners that the process should be halted for now.

He said: “While a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later to remove the uncertainty, I can’t see a way that this can be supported at the moment.

“This probably isn’t the most important decision to be made by the Department for Education (DfE) at the moment.

“I think most people would rather a decision sooner because I don’t think delaying it will change the outcome.

“I think it will be inevitably delayed but I’m broadly supportive in that I think there are much more important things for the DfE and council to be engaging with at this time due to the outbreak.

Former pupil Josh Harcup is leading the campaign to overturn the forced academisation of Prestwich Arts College.

He said: “I am glad Christian acknowledges that now is not the time to force Prestwich Arts College into becoming an Academy. The entire world is grappling with a global health crisis and we must focus on keeping our students and their families safe, whilst ensuring they have the work they need to continue their studies.

“Our staff need to be reassured that they are doing a great job, as, like school staff across the entire UK, they will be feeling high levels of stress. Students don’t know when they will return to school and those sitting GCSE exams don’t know when or if they will sit them.

“Now is not the time – December 2020 would be far more of an appropriate timeline given the need for a full and meaningful consultation of all stakeholders.”