Picket line outside Moulsecoomb Primary School as staff strike against academy plans

Staff at Moulsecoomb Primary School are taking a day of strike action today (Wednesday) as they call for academisation plans to be dropped.

Day of strike action at Moulsecoomb Primary School
Day of strike action at Moulsecoomb Primary School

Members of the NEU, GMB and UNISON are taking part in the strike with union officers reassuring that rules on Covid-safety are being strictly applied. Staff are operating a rotating picket line at the school gates in groups of six until 1pm. Campaigners said people passing during their daily exercise are welcome to say hello to staff and add banners to the growing display.

The unions say the strike follows a recent announcement by the Department for Education that three new academy sponsors are being considered. Unions believe that the Regional Schools Commission is poised to make a decision at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday, March 25) in a move that is 'against the wishes of the local community, the school and its staff'.

Paul Shellard, NEU Branch Secretary said: “Staff only ever take strike action as a last resort, but we know that academisation will be detrimental to the learning conditions for children and the working conditions for staff.

“Gavin Williamson claims to support schools and communities, but he is ignoring the united community opposition to taking the school away from local democratic control.

“We know that the community will support us. The message is clear: the sponsors should withdraw and allow the school and staff to concentrate on improving outcomes for children.”

To make sure that disadvantaged children do not miss out with the school being closed, the trade unions have provided lunches to replace those that would usually be provided by the school.

The strike comes after the Hands Off Moulsecoomb Primary School campaign was relaunched during an online meeting earlier this month in response to the news that three new academy trusts have their sights set on taking over the school.

Around 120 people joined the Zoom meeting and heard from Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Brighton and Hove city councillors, staff, parents, and union representatives.

Since the public meeting, it is said the chief education officers of the three trusts have received more than 500 email messages from campaign supporters requesting that they withdraw.

Staff and parent campaigners say they are determined their school will not be forced out of the Brighton and Hove family of schools. They point to the evidence that schools under local authority control have a much better record of making improvements. This is borne out by the significant improvement in Moulsecoomb Primary’s SATs results released in the same academic year as the inspection.

The school was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted in April 2019 which led to the Secretary of State for Education imposing an academy order, which forces the school to join a multi-academy trust. Since then, campaigners have fought vigorously for the academy order to be revoked, arguing that the school has improved significantly since then, which they say means the school should no longer be eligible for intervention from the Department for Education.

Mark Turner GMB branch secretary said: “It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State for Education still isn’t understanding or accepting that our members, parents and the community as a whole do not want this school to be taken over by any Academy Trust.

“We, the GMB, will support this campaign in every way possible to stop the privatisation of education taking place – strike action will send a clear message to any Academy Trust that they are not welcome in Moulsecoomb and we will not cooperate with any Trust parachuted in to take control of our school.

“Pupils’ education this year has already been disrupted enough through Covid and whilst staff want to concentrate their efforts and focus on improving the education on offer, the further distractions of potential Academy sponsors are preventing that.”

Matt Webb, UNISON Brighton & Hove Education Convenor, said: “Over the last year or so UNISON members at Moulsecoomb Primary have stood shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, parents, the community and our sister trade unions in seeking to keep the much-loved school in the accountable hands of the community it serves.

“The campaign has since seen off calamitous and failing Multi-Academy Trusts through public pressure and industrial action to afford the school the time it has needed to work with the local authority to address issues raised by OFSTED. The resolve of that campaign has not faltered or declined.”

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