Academy plans at schools spark potential strike action

Public meeting ... Telscombe Cliffs parents Amanda Tams and Dagmara Dimitriou leafletting at the school gates. Photograph by Craig Arden
Public meeting ... Telscombe Cliffs parents Amanda Tams and Dagmara Dimitriou leafletting at the school gates. Photograph by Craig Arden

Unions have balloted for strike action over plans to turn two schools into a private academy.

Both the GMB and the National Education Union have held consultative strike ballots of support staff and teachers working at Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs Primary Schools.

They say the academy plans are against the wishes of staff, parents and the governing body.

Both GMB members and NEU members working at the schools have backed the call for potential strike action with overwhelming support from both union’s members.

Governors at both schools say they have been told by East Sussex County Council that they must convert to a Multi-Academy Trust despite the council not having the power to issue a forced academy order and having publicly given no reason for this to happen.

Governors have written to parents to tell them: “On the advice of the LA, to ensure continuous improvement and bring further capacity to the school in terms of leadership, we must now join an academy trust.”

Both unions together will now look to the council to reverse its decision and will be uniting with parents to fight against it. Parents have called a meeting to discuss the threat at 6.30pm in the Telescombe Civic Centre tomorrow (Wednesday, February 6).

Lib Whitfield, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “Support staff and teachers at the schools are united in opposing the forced academisation of the schools and this consultative ballot sends a loud and clear message to the county council that they are prepared to walk out on strike if the council tries to force this academisation on the schools.

“Our members will not accept being forced into a private academy which is not in the interests of the staff or our children’s education.

“We are calling on the council to immediately confirm that they will not pressure the governing body of the schools to convert and will continue to support the schools in any way needed as part of the Local Education Authority.

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “We been working closely with Peacehaven Heights Primary School and Telscombe Cliffs Primary School to improve outcomes for all pupils, ensure both schools have the ability to recruit and retain senior staff and skilled governors and secure greater stability for the longer term.

“This has included providing support and advice to the governing board about considering conversion to an academy with a strong performing academy trust. The governing board are at an early stage of considering academy conversion and a full consultation with staff, parents and the school community would take place before any final decision is reached.

“We work with all schools, regardless of their status and we advise governing bodies to take into account the individual circumstances and the needs of a school when considering whether an academy conversion would bring benefits to the school and its pupils.”