Hartley Primary Academy in Longfield near Gravesend to be renamed Leigh Academy Hartley but some parents are angry over Leigh Academy Trust (LAT) decision
Parents have hit out at a decision to change the name of their children's "historic" school.
Hartley Primary Academy has 443 pupils between the ages of three and 11 at its site in Longfield, near Gravesend.
Built nearly two centuries ago in 1841, it converted to an academy in May 2013 to become part of the Leigh Academies Trust (LAT).
An announcement in the Trust's winter newsletter in December revealed the school, in Round Ash Way, would be changing its name to Leigh Academy Hartley.
However, some parents missed that news and didn’t realise the name would be changing until a letter was sent to parents and carers on Friday, January 5.
The letter, seen by My Kent Family’s sister website KentOnline, said the decision to switch names was "decided unanimously" following a meeting involving the directors of LAT, plus other senior figures including school governors and leadership teams.
The new title of Leigh Academy Hartley will come into effect from September.
Mum Julia Griffiths said the switch had come as a shock.
She explained: "I thought the letter was very flippant, to the point and brushed the issue under the carpet.
"A school is a service paid for through taxes, not a business, so changing the school into a brand makes it seem like a smaller company being taken over by a bigger one.
"It was sent on a Friday afternoon too, at a time when people are obviously very busy, so that didn't help the situation.
"I just think it's all a strange move given how well the school has been doing recently."
Current pupils will be allowed to continue wearing their existing uniform until it naturally needs replacing.
A new uniform will become available for the September intake.
Father-of-five Luke Jewell says he is equally unhappy with the decision.
The 41-year-old Hartley resident has youngsters aged five, six and eight attending the school with a two-year-old likely to join its ranks in the future.
He said he felt the letter he received was “really arrogant”.
He added: "It did not involve any parents in the decision-making process.
"It just feels like a money-making scheme with no way to change it.
"This is why there is venom because of the way it has been carried out and why; it has struck a chord."
Mr Jewell says he made a complaint, in the form of an email, after being made aware of the news – which he says is ongoing.
Meanwhile, a petition objecting to the name change has reached more than 160 signatures.
One of those who has signed and commented is Sophie Carly.
She said in the online petition: "I am signing as I feel the name change from Hartley Primary Academy to Leigh Academies Hartley will be detrimental to the reputation Hartley Primary Academy holds.
"It is an incredible school with incredible teachers who have worked so hard to build an incredible reputation in our village.
"Renaming our village school to a name which feels only holds corporate and a business mindset, rather than primary education and care, worries me about its future.
"I strongly appeal this decision and hope for future references LAT consults all those that will be impacted by any further changes in the future."
The change is part of a two-year programme to rename all LAT academies under the same umbrella term.
The Trust is in charge of 32 academies. Half (16) of them will change their name this September. Four – Leigh Academy Blackheath, Tonbridge, Rainham and Bexley – have already made the switch.
The remaining ones will make the change in September 2025.
The other Kent academies taking on a new name this year are: Paddock Wood Primary, Dartford's The Leigh Academy and Dartford Primary, High Halstow Primary in Medway, Milestone Academy in New Ash Green, plus Cherry Orchard Primary in Ebbsfleet and Horsmonden Primary in Tonbridge.
A further five will make the switch in Maidstone. They are: Bearsted Primary, Langley Park Primary, Molehill Primary, Oaks Primary and Tree Tops Primary.
LAT’s people and communications director Richard Taylor said there was no formal requirement to consult parents on a change of a school's name.
He believes renaming the school is a decision which will benefit all its members.
He explained: "The decision to rename our academies, including the transition of Hartley Primary Academy to Leigh Academy Hartley from September 2024, followed extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including local board governors and academy leadership teams.
It did not involve any parents in the decision-making process
"The overwhelming majority of those consulted were in full support.
"Hartley Primary Academy has been part of the Trust for over a decade and in that time has been judged outstanding by Ofsted twice and is one of Kent’s most oversubscribed primaries.
"This decision is about working in even closer partnership and collaboration with all of our schools across the Leigh network so staff and pupils carry on benefiting.
"The rationale to strengthen our identity as a unified educational community will also assist us in attracting and retaining high-quality staff – a key component in our mission of providing exceptional education.
"We know already staff in all job roles are keen to join Leigh, and this recent decision on the naming of our academies will ensure we continue to attract the best staff in a very difficult employment market.
"The renaming process has been designed to respect each academy's unique local identity as siblings of the wider Trust family."
Some parents have raised concerns money could be better spent by the school, but the LAT confirmed the cost of the name change will not be paid for by any academy.
Mr Taylor added: "The Trust will bear all the relevant costs separately, which it will keep to a minimum by doing much of the work in-house through its central team."
The Trust's original announcement in its newsletter was made on the same day new principal Stuart Mitchell was confirmed as Hartley's new head.
He is to take over after this Easter half-term when current principal Nicole Galinis leaves.