Pupils, parents and teachers protest at Peacehaven Heights school

Teachers at Peacehaven Heights school strike over academy plans – in pictures

Teachers at Peacehaven Heights went on strike on Wednesday over potential plans to convert the school into an academy.

By Isabella Cipirska
Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 3:05 pm

Children, parents and staff held a loud and colourful rally in the local park, where they were joined by Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown.

Phil Clarke, local secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the education secretary Gavin Williamson had recently praised East Sussex County Council and the STEP academy trust for operating a ‘try before you buy’ system, where schools could see what it was like to join a private academy trust.

Mr Clarke said: “If this is an example of try an academy chain before you buy, there is only one question the community here are asking, and that is how do we get a refund?

“East Sussex County Council need to step up and say we have listened, our imposed board will now make way for a normal governing body accountable to the community and recruit a headteacher for the school.

“We are just asking for these basic necessities to be in place.”

The Interim Executive Board (IEB), which has run the school since it was imposed by the county council in 2019, is planning to hold a consultation on academy conversion in the Autumn term.

Caroline Gridley, who has two children at the school, said of both the council and the IEB: “They have shown they cannot be trusted to run the school and they certainly cannot be trusted to make a decision like giving the school to a private academy trust.”

Further industrial action by teachers at the school has not been ruled out, the NEU said.

Campaigners are urging local people to sign this letter to their councillors.

A recent survey of staff at the school found that two thirds said they would be ‘likely or very likely to leave’ if the school was converted into an academy, according to the NEU.

Parent campaigners have also been calling for a permanent head teacher to be installed at the school, which they said has had five head teachers in the last five years.

They believe the school has changed ‘dramatically’ under the IEB, pointing to the decision – which they said was made without consultation with parents – to close the school pool and fill it with concrete.

Parents want East Sussex County Council to re-instate a local governing body comprised of parents, staff and local people to decide the future of the school.

The school’s current interim headteacher will remain in post until Easter 2022, the IEB has confirmed.

The IEB chairman previously said: “The decision to consult on academy conversion has been made by the Interim Executive Board (IEB) of the school.

“The IEB has confirmed that, in response to concerns from some parents, the board will not hold a consultation until all the current lockdown requirements are removed so that everyone is reassured it is a meaningful consultation.

“This consultation will not, therefore be held until the Autumn term.”

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