Strike action suspended at Peacehaven primary schools

The protest demonstration in Peacehaven earlier this month
The protest demonstration in Peacehaven earlier this month

Strike action scheduled to take place at Peacehaven primary schools tomorrow (Thursday, May 23) has been suspended.

It follows news that governors have scrapped academisation plans and decided to remain as local authority maintained schools.

In a letter to staff at Peacehaven Heights primary yesterday (Tuesday, May 21) governors announced that “after much careful research and consideration, the Governing Body has now reached a decision regarding the best way forward for the future of our school. We believe this is to remain as a maintained school under the auspices of East Sussex Local Authority.”

A similar letter was sent to staff at Telscombe Cliffs Primary School, the GMB and National Education Unions’ involved in the dispute, parents and carers and East Sussex County Council.

Ginny Gould, teacher and National Education Union representative for Telscombe Cliffs Primary School, said: “We are really happy that the governors have made this decision as we strongly believe that it is the best outcome for the children.”

In January governors at Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs wrote to parents: “On the advice of the local authority [East Sussex County Council], to ensure continuous improvement and bring further capacity to the school in terms of leadership, we must now join an academy trust.”

This led to staff at the two schools voting for strike action and the formation of a community campaign group @HandsOffOurSchools whose petition against the move at change.org has received more than 1,000 signatures.

On May 1 parents joined striking teachers and support staff from the two primaries and the local secondary school, Peacehaven Community School, which is also facing academisation into the Swale Academies Trust, for a 250-strong rally and march which brought Peacehaven to a standstill.

Alice Burchfield, parent of two pupils at Peacehaven Heights, said: “I am so relieved that good sense has prevailed and our schools can remain in the hands of our community where the interests of our children are put first.

“Thank you to our governors for your thorough investigation and listening to the concerns of parents and staff.”

Phil Clarke, Secretary of the Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NEU, said: “Our members are very pleased with the principled stand the governors have taken and believe this is the best decision for the schools and the communities they serve.

“Nationally the academies programme is increasingly falling apart as privatisation is now clearly not seen as the answer to school improvement.”

National Education Union members working at Peacehaven Community School, the local secondary school, remain in dispute as an imposed Interim Executive Board (IEB) of governors is still planning to privatise the school and hand it over to the Swale Academies Trust.