PARENTS and teachers are strongly opposed to Littlehampton Community School being converted to an academy, the first test of public opinion has revealed.
Staff have responded seven to one against the plans, while almost four out of five parents are opposed.
Richard Davies, chairman of governors at LCS, said the findings had "taken us by surprise", but the county education authority insisted they were in line with expectations at this early stage of consultation, and the concerns highlighted would be addressed in further meetings this coming term.
The feedback is included in a paper to county council cabinet member Mark Dunn, whose portfolio includes education. An analysis of responses since consultation on the academy began two months ago, including a meeting at the school last month, showed seven staff in favour and 50 against, while 36 parents and residents supported the proposals and 141 opposed them.
Mr Davies told the Gazette: "The level of objections is clearly a matter of concern. I shall be raising it with the head and governing body immediately after the school holidays."
Marian Darke, south-east regional secretary of teaching union the NUT, felt the level of opposition to an academy in Littlehampton was "striking", particularly among parents.
"Quite often parents think they will be getting a nice new school, with lots of money, and they may not see the same angle as staff thinking about their jobs, terms and conditions, as well as the deep philosophical arguments.
"West Sussex (county council) may have misread the situation and bitten off more than it can chew. The whole academy programme is so short-sighted, looking for some sort of magic bullet to put everything right, even when there might not be anything wrong with existing good community schools."
She added that the NUT wanted to see a halt to the whole academy programme.
Mike Wilson, head of special projects for county council adults and children's services, said care should be taken with the analysis of responses in the report he wrote for Mr Dunn, which was only a "snapshot" of the situation and, in the case of Littlehampton parents, represented only 10 per cent of pupils on roll.
The information will contribute to the feasibility study currently underway into whether LCS should be taken over by Woodard Schools as an academy, from September next year. Woodard, a Church of England organisation which also runs Lancing College, wants to take charge of Boundstone College, Lancing, and King's Manor College, Shoreham, too.
Said Mr Wilson: "The county council believes that the initial feedback received from the consultation process will be invaluable to use as we move forward with the feasibility project.
"The comments received, both written and during the recent consultation meetings, provide a useful agenda for further discussions at the consultation events being planned for the summer term.
"The level of concern is in no way uncommon for an academy project, and very much in line with experience elsewhere."
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