GOVERNORS at Elton Primary School have been “sacked” — weeks before the school is set to become an academy.

The school was placed in special measures in May last year, and governors accepted the switch to academy status on the basis that they could continue in their roles.

However, at a meeting last week, governors were told they would be replaced by an interim executive board (IEB), put in place by the Department for Education (DfE).

The DfE says this decision was made because the school “has a history of underperformance” and was “failing its pupils”.

The IEB, which was expected to meet at the school last night, will be made up of four members, compared to the previous board of governors which totalled 17 people.

The move comes after inspectors visited the school last month for a monitoring inspection, which found that pupils are making better progress, and that the quality of teaching is improving.

Parents who were angered by the move to become an academy set up a protest group named Save Elton Primary. They previously said they believed the school was already making progress before the decision to become an academy was made.

More than 100 demonstrators had staged a protest outside the school before a governors meeting, when Gena Merrett, a Department for Education adviser, attended and the orders to allow the school to become an academy were signed.

Cllr Michael Hankey, the deposed chairman of governors, said: “I am disappointed. We as the board of governors feel we have co-operated fully with the DfE throughout the process.

“We were not in favour of the process, but we realised you do have to bow to the inevitable and did our best to make the transition easy. “ Paul Sandiford, a former parent governor and a member of the protest group, added: “We are all a bit gobsmacked. We said all along that the school was making progress.

“The reason why we accepted it becoming an academy was because they would not introduce an IEB, but it seems that they have gone back on their word.

“It is disappointing because there will be no parent governors on the IEB until the academy starts, so parents will have no say.”

Cllr Gill Campbell, Bury Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “It is very disappointing that the DfE has effectively sacked the board of governors with just a few days’ notice — but sadly it is not surprising, given the haste with which schools are being forced down the academy route against their will.

“The school’s governors have worked hard in the best interests of the school, and don’t deserve to be treated in this way.

“As long as it remains with the council, we will continue to work with the school to bring about the best possible outcome for its pupils.”

The initial date of the school’s transfer to become an academy was May 1.

However, it is believed that this may now be delayed because of the change in governors.

It is also understood that Bury College will become the school’s sponsor, similar to when Radcliffe Primary school became an academy on January 1 this year.

A DfE spokesman said: “Elton Community Primary School has a history of underperformance and has been placed in special measures by Ofsted, who found its leadership and governance to be inaccurate.

“We will not stand by when a school is failing its pupils. We have appointed an interim executive board of governors to return effective governance to the school and start a consultation on the school becoming an academy.

“The support of a sponsor with a proven track record is the best way to turn around schools that are consistently underperforming, with results at sponsored academies improving faster than in other state-funded schools.”

Ofsted inspectors visited the school on February 5 and 6, and said the school is “making reasonable progress towards the removal of special measures.”

The report stated: “The leadership in and the management of the school are improving. The headteacher and other leaders have not been slow in taking actions to tackle weaknesses. They have increased their checks on the quality of teaching and the standards of pupils work.”

Tony Emmott, headteacher of Elton Primary, declined to comment on the removal of the board of governors, but said the school was “pleased” with the recent Ofsted visit.

He said: “HMI [Her Majesty’s Inspector] has recognised the hard work of staff and governors to secure the improvements required. The report is very positive and provides an encouraging platform for us to build on further.”