Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Saturday, 3 May 2008 13:25 UK

Anti-academy fight ousts leader

Teacher and class
Academies are usually set up to replace failing schools

Campaigners against a proposed new academy school have unseated the Conservative leader of a council.

Four anti-academy campaigners were elected to the borough council in Barrow, Cumbria, where an academy is planned to replace three schools.

Of the 36 seats being contested, Labour lost eight and the Liberal Democrats one, with the Tories retaining 17.

The four gains among other parties were by candidates for the group Our Schools Are Not For Sale (OSANFS).

A fifth anti-academy candidate failed to be elected by just one vote.

Our campaign has revealed overwhelming opposition to the academy plan throughout the borough
Roger Titcombe
Our Schools Are Not For Sale

They stood on a ticket of being opposed to Cumbria County Council plans to close Alfred Barrow, Parkview and Thorncliffe Schools and re-open them on their present sites as a single Barrow Academy.

The plan has yet to win approval from ministers.

Anti-academy campaigner Mike Stephenson unseated the incumbent Conservative council leader Bill Joughin in Hawcoat ward and scooped the most votes there.

The BBC News Website attempted to contact Mr Joughin for reaction but received no response.

"This has been an election like no other, with the academy and the linked threats to our primary schools the main concern of voters," said campaigner Roger Titcombe, a retired head teacher who used to run one of the schools the academy could replace.

"Our campaign has revealed overwhelming opposition to the academy plan throughout the borough and especially in the wards surrounding the proposed academy site where prominent sitting Conservatives including the leader of the council have been deposed."

Mr Titcombe added: "In addition, an anti-academy Lib Dem made up the third councillor elected at Parkside, giving a clean sweep of anti-academy successes with no Labour or Conservative councillors elected in that ward."

Mr Titcombe said the anti-academy campaign would grow and that other councillors had privately expressed their support.

They will have some influence because although the Conservatives will form the largest party, they will not have an overall majority.

Mr Titcombe said the group would now seek alliances on the new borough council to achieve the abandonment of the academy plan.

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