‘Brilliant news’ as academy plans for Lewes schools are shelved

All smiles outside Wallands Community Primary School. Photograph by Torz Dallison
All smiles outside Wallands Community Primary School. Photograph by Torz Dallison

Parents, staff and pupils are celebrating after schools in Lewes this week shelved plans for a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

The National Education Union and Save Lewes Schools have campaigned hard to stop the privatisation to academy status of six schools in the town.

Plans had been considered to turn Lewes Priory, Southover Primary, Western Road Community Primary, South Malling Primary, Wallands Community Primary and Iford and Kingston Primary schools into a MAT.

However, earlier this month two schools - Western Road and Southover - withdrew from the proposals, citing concerns from the community.

Now, headteachers for the remaining four schools said in a letter: “We have listened to the range of opinion from parents and from staff. So, effective immediately, we will dissolve the current Lewes MAT working group and refocus to consider all partnership options.”

Chloe King, whose daughter attend Wallands Community Primary said, “I am so proud of all our Lewes schools for listening to campaigners and responding to parents’ concerns by promising to be more collaborative and open.

“This is a huge concession to make and a real credit to the schools involved. I love Wallands and I want it to stay within the local authority as the community school I know and love.”

Holly Atkins, whose son attends Western Road School, said: “This is brilliant news. Everyone at Save Lewes Schools has worked so hard to get to this point and deserves to celebrate. But it’s not the end of the story. East Sussex County Council needs to make clear that it is not pushing schools into MATs or Federations.

“And we need to lobby central government for proper funding. Now though, we hope we can unite together and push for fairer funding.

“Parents, school leaders, teachers and governors are better when we work together.”

The schools have promised to invite parent representatives and Save Lewes Schools to be involved in the process of finding solutions to the government-imposed funding crisis. They also reached out to the schools which withdrew from the working group at an earlier stage as well as any other schools around the Lewes area which want to stay informed.

Phil Clarke, National Education Union Secretary for Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden, said: “Teachers and staff will breathe a sigh of relief that the immediate prospect of privatisation has been lifted. We very much hope to engage with the discussions school leaders wish to have about how schools can collaborate for mutual benefit but this should be on the basis of keeping schools in the East Sussex family and under democratic local oversight.”

Last week, representatives of both Save Lewes Schools and the National Education Union met with Lewes MP Maria Caulfield to discuss the issue of fairer funding for schools. All have agreed to meet regularly over the coming months, with Ms Caulfield committing to lobbying for improved education funding as well as speaking with head teachers of several Lewes schools.