Steyning Grammar School teachers consider industrial action over academy plans

A teachers union has warned Steyning Grammar School could face industrial action over plans to convert to an academy.

The National Education Union (NEU), which represents many of the teachers at the school, has vowed to keep up its opposition to academisation plans after governors voted unanimously in favour of proceeding yesterday (March 11).

The NEU's regional representative, James Ellis, said he was 'disappointed, but not surprised' by the decision, but refused to accept the rationale for the decision.

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"The NEU will discuss the decision with its members in the school and determine our next steps which might include industrial action," he said.

Steyning Grammar School. Pic: Google

"We will continue to campaign against the academy transfer because we are some way from that happening. It is clear to us that teachers and parents do not want Bohunt Education Trust to take over their school because they understand there is nothing to be gained from it, and everything to lose."

A petition opposing the plans has received more than 360 signatures in less than a month.

Opposing parents and teachers have argued joining the Bohunt trust would not provide any additional funding compared to current local authority levels.

It would be ‘irresponsible’ to risk the school’s 400-year history, they argued, by joining the academy and taking autonomy away from parents.

Fears have also been raised around academies’ recruitment processes. As they are not bound by governmental regulations, they can hire unqualified teachers drafted in to teach standardised curriculums.

The petition called on the governors to ‘halt the damaging plans to privatise our community school and hand it over to a multi-academy trust’.

West Sussex's NEU branch secretary, Ann Seuret, accused the governors of a lack of transparency for allegedly refusing to release minutes of its meetings.

“It is clear that the governors of Steyning Grammar have no respect for the school community and the key stakeholders," she said.

"The unwillingness of individual governors to engage with questions from the people they represent or release minutes of governing body meetings, which are public documents, shows that they are not being transparent and would appear to have something to hide! They are foreshadowing the lack of democratic accountability which will happen if the school is converted to an academy.”

Steyning Grammar School's governors voted unanimously to apply for academy status, with a view to joining the multi-academy Bohunt Education Trust, which currently includes seven schools and a sixth form.

The school has been approached for further comment.