Strikes close three schools in privatisation protest

Protesters on the march in Peacehaven
Protesters on the march in Peacehaven

Three local schools were closed due to industrial action today (Wednesday, May 1).

Teachers and support staff belonging to the NEU and GMB unions went on strike at Peacehaven Community School, Peacehaven Heights Primary School and Telscombe Cliffs Community Primary School.

A National Education Union spokesman said the walk out was in protest against proposed plans to privatise the schools.

Parents and members of the wider community joined strikers at a rally in Peacehaven’s Centenary Park at 11am, followed by a march through the town.

Peacehaven Community School is due to strike again tomorrow.

Alice Burchfield, mother of two children at Peacehaven Heights, said: “I support the strike wholeheartedly because there is no good reason to academise the schools and very many reasons not to.

“Academies have not been shown to raise attainment and come with worrying risks such as employing unqualified teachers, less money reaching the classroom and less accountability to parents and the community.”

In January governors at Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs Community Primary Schools 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.

National Education Union members working at Peacehaven Community School are on strike to oppose the decision taken by the school’s unelected Interim Executive Board (IEB) of governors to academise the school and hand it over to the Swale Academies Trust.

Phil Clarke, Secretary of the Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NEU, said: “What the staff and community are asking for is very simple, East Sussex Council needs to stop doing behind the scenes deals, which give our schools to private chains like the Swale Academies Trust.

“They then need to make sure every school in Peacehaven has an elected governing body and those governors should not be pressured to hand over our schools.”