Parents are ‘disgusted’ at the academisation of a primary school after a popular headteacher left her position and a much-loved annual fireworks display was cancelled.

Waltham Holy Cross Primary School in Waltham Abbey was transferred to the control of NET Academies Trust (NET) on November 1.

Since the switch, parents – who have campaigned against academisation since March 2018 – have been infuriated by the school’s operators.

Colin Potter, chair of the Waltham Holy Cross Parent’s Committee, said parents were “horrified” to find out popular headteacher Erica Barnett and foundation stage coordinator Ben Collin had left their jobs upon academisation.

He said parents felt the Mrs Barnett had been pushed since “her position in the school was made untenable.”

A spokesperson for the trust said: “Both Erica Barnett and Ben Collin have decided to step down from their roles, now that the conversion has taken place, and we wish them all the best for their futures.”

Mr Potter said the trust had added “insult to injury” by cancelling the “wonderful” annual fireworks display planned by Ms Barnett for Saturday, November 9.

A NET spokesperson said the display “regrettably” had to be cancelled when the trust found the organiser who had been booked had no public liability insurance or risk assessments in place.

The spokesperson added: “Unfortunately it was too late to organise a replacement. The health and safety of pupils, staff and parents must come first.”

Parents infuriated by the cancellation of the fireworks display took to the school’s website to voice their frustrations – only to find their comments were being deleted from the page.

The trust said “distressing” comments had “breached guidelines” and were not “appropriate” to be publicly available, as a result comments were disabled.

A trust spokesperson added: “However, NET is very keen to hear the views of parents and has other methods to gather these, which is what we will now be doing at Waltham Holy Cross, in the same way that works well with the other schools in the trust.”

More than 1,000 people had signed a petition against academisation in a campaign backed Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing, who wrote to schools minister Lord Agnew calling for the academisation to be put on hold.

However, the government review ruled in favour of the academy trust.

Lord Agnew wrote to Dame Eleanor saying "significant and exceptional action” had been taken to investigate the allegations about teaching and assessment practices adopted by NET

Lord Agnew added: "However, with that investigation complete and having considered its findings, I remain of the view that NETAT is the right sponsor for this school.”

Mr Potter said: “In spite of our MP referring the case to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and writing to the schools minister, Lord Agnew, asking him to put the conversion on hold, pending further investigation into allegations of malpractice by NET Academy Trust, he has pushed it through regardless. His justification that ‘we will not stand by idly and see our children’s future damaged by poor education’ just goes to show how out of touch he and his government are.”

A NET spokesperson said: “We are an education charity that only ever works in the best interests of children. So much has been said about our team over the last few months that has been wrong, unfair and hurtful, and it would have been easier at times to withdraw from the process.

“But our guiding principle is to help children get a first-class education so that they are able to live their best lives, and we never want to give up on that. We have always wanted simply to bring that same level of commitment to the pupils of Waltham Holy Cross Primary School, and we are delighted that the government, and so many parents, agree with us.

“NET has a strong record of improvement within the schools we lead and we will work tirelessly every day to raise standards at Waltham Holy Cross Primary. We are excited about being part of this new chapter in its story and we hope everyone will now come together to support that aim.”