Fears two Peacehaven schools will be ‘offloaded’ to academy trusts

Peacehaven parents have launched a campaign to stop two primary schools being ‘offloaded’ to academy trusts.

Monday, 21st September 2020, 3:08 pm
Peacehaven Heights

The governing bodies at both Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs have been replaced with boards appointed by East Sussex County Council.

At Peacehaven Heights a headteacher from The Step Academy Trust has been installed by the interim board and parents fear this is a second attempt by ESCC to ‘offload’ the schools to an academy trust.

Parents are also angry at the decision by the Peacehaven Heights Interim Executive Board (IEB) to fill in the school pool during the summer holidays without consulting with the community which they claim had raised £100,000 to ensure the pool’s future.

In response the county council says no decision has yet been made around the future leadership or governance of Peacehaven Heights with a parents’ forum due to be held this week, with a meeting at Telscombe Cliffs also due to be arranged.

Martyn Beaumont, whose son attends Peacehaven Heights, said: “ESCC seems to be deaf to the voices of parents. We need to shout very loud and show them we will be listened to. We need to come together and make our voices heard. For our children and future children.”

A public ‘Zoom’ meeting has been called for today (Monday September 21) at 7pm here to discuss how the community can come together to demand the following:

1 - That a new substantive headteacher be recruited through interviews at Peacehaven Heights as soon as possible.

2 - That parents’ forums be set up at both schools so parent voices are heard.

3 - That for both schools the process of setting up a new, normal governing bodies accountable to the community begin immediately.

4 - That no irreversible decisions, such as academy conversion, be taken by imposed governors

Campaigners are also calling on staff, parents and members of the wider community to use this tool to write to the decision makers at East Sussex County Council asking them to support the above demands.

Phil Clarke, Joint Secretary for East Sussex NEU, said: “What is being asked for the schools in Peacehaven is no more than is already the case in all others schools.

“Where there are vacancies for headteachers these should be filled as quickly as possible through a proper recruitment process and local people through governing bodies should be involved in the really big decisions.

“The swimming pool wasn’t just closed it was filled in. A decision to give the school away to an academy chain would be even more irreversible. There should be no question that this is imposed by councillors based the other end of the county on the Peacehaven community.”

In response, an East Sussex County Council spokesman said last week: “Recruitment of high-quality leaders within education is a national challenge with many experienced teachers choosing not to progress into headship. Unfortunately, after several attempts we were unable to recruit a full-time substantive headteacher to the post at Peacehaven Heights.

“A new interim headteacher has been appointed to work alongside the outgoing interim leader, drawing leadership from the Local Teaching School Alliance which is run by the STEP Academy trust.

“Working with teaching schools is a national and local model for building capacity in the school system. No decision has yet been made around the future leadership or governance of Peacehaven Heights and a parents forum is due to be held at Peacehaven Heights next week, with a number of parents having already signed up via the school to attend. A meeting at Telscombe Cliffs is also being arranged and details will be shared with parents once confirmed.

“Due to the adverse pressure on the school’s budget, the IEB undertook a review and clearly identified that the costs of running and maintaining the swimming pool at Peacehaven Heights, including utility and staffing costs was placing an undue burden on the school’s finances.

“As a result the decision was taken to close the pool and convert the space for use by other less costly activities. Following statements that £100,000 had been raised for the school pool, our audit team is investigating and awaiting further information before releasing a final report.”