Anger after board running Peacehaven school applies for academy order ahead of consultation

Parents and staff members are angry after the board running Peacehaven Heights Primary school applied for an academy order – months before a consultation on academisation has even started.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 5:39 pm
Pupils, parents and teachers protesting at Peacehaven Heights school on May 5

They said the step, undertaken by the Interim Executive Board (IEB), undermined the meaningfulness of any future consultation.

However the IEB said it needed to be sure that the Regional Schools Commissioner considered the STEP Academy Trust an appropriate trust for the school to join, ahead of consulting on the proposal.

Parent campaigner, Caroline Gridley said: “The fact that they have applied for an academy order before any consultation is a joke.

“IEB chair Penny Gaunt has already told parents that it is a consultation and not a referendum, which suggests she’s not listening to parents, staff or the local community.”

Members of the National Education Union will be taking a second day of strike action this month over the threat of academisation, taking place on Tuesday (May 25).

Campaigners are calling on East Sussex County Council to re-instate a local governing body to replace the IEB that was imposed to run the school in 2019.

Phil Clarke, NEU Branch Secretary, said: “We served notice to the employer of this day of action four weeks ago, but up until the recent announcement, our members had been considering suspending further action to minimise disruption for children and parents.

“They were prepared to give the new councillors in Peacehaven and Telscombe, who have supported the campaign throughout, an opportunity to influence the position of the council with regards to re-instating governing bodies.

“However, the announcement by the IEB last week to push on with applying for an academy order when the level of community opposition is already clear, and consultation has not even begun, has destroyed any hope of a meaningful consultation taking place in the future.

“With a heavy heart, our members are now prepared to take further strike action.”

When staff last took strike action on May 5, large numbers of parents and children joined them on the picket line to show their support, marching through the centre of town to The Big Park for speeches.

Parent Caroline Gridley, who will be supporting staff again said: “I don’t want my children missing any more education, especially after such a long time out of school over lockdown.

“However, it has already been shown in 2019 that academisation is not in the best interests of the children at Peacehaven Heights and all the IEB have done is fail to recruit a permanent head teacher and concrete in the swimming pool. “I hate the idea of my children losing yet another day of school, but the staff have my full support on this matter.”

Picket lines will be taking place at the Infant and Junior sites from 7.30am on Tuesday.

Campaigners will then be heading to County Hall in Lewes to protest outside at 9am.

Councillor Chris Collier, who was newly elected as a County Councillor for Peacehaven, said: “Yet again, I’m calling for East Sussex County Council to put a local governing body back in place.

“Any consultation can then be carried out by them in a transparent way that puts the best interests of the pupils first, rather than this headlong nose-dive into forced academisation.”

The chairman of the IEB said: “The IEB will be applying for an Academy Order in advance of the consultation.

“This is so that we will have the decision of the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) as to whether STEP Academy Trust are approved and considered an appropriate Trust for the school to join.

“We do not want to be in a position where we are consulting on Peacehaven Heights joining STEP Academy Trust without being certain that this would meet the approval of the RSC.”

The IEB is planning to hold a consultation on academisation during the Autumn term.