A union is threatening to strike over plans to force an 'inadequate' primary school to become an academy - claiming the inspection was "unfair and insensitive".

Byron Court Primary School in North Wembley may join the Harris Federation, a multi-academy trust, after it received the lowest possible Ofsted rating in an inspection in November last year.

In accordance with government policy, the school has been ordered to become an academy by the Department for Education (DfE) - despite more than 1,000 parents signing a petition against the move.

Jennifer Cooper, the Brent district joint secretary from the Brent National Education Union (NEU), said the entire process “feels really unfair” and that a preliminary ballot has indicated teachers may strike.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Jennifer Cooper, from the Brent NEUJennifer Cooper, from the Brent NEU (Image: Handout)

She explained: “We were asked to meet with the members because they had concerns following the Ofsted inspection, initially they didn’t feel the Ofsted inspection itself had been conducted fairly or sensitively.

“That’s not to say that our members disagree that there’s things that might need improving in the school, because obviously the school has been through a period of upheaval because it’s had such frequent changes in senior leadership in the last few years and that always leads to things being missed.”

Inspectors identified upheaval among leadership staff at the school as one of the key problems. Acting headteacher Richard Sternberg has been in post since September 2023. The substantive headteacher was absent from the school during the inspection.

Brent & Kilburn Times: A protest outside Byron Court Primary School on Thursday (March 21)A protest outside Byron Court Primary School on Thursday (March 21) (Image: Save Byron Court)

Despite the Ofsted report praising Mr Sternberg’s efforts, it said leadership was “overwhelmed”. Following the announcement that the school would become an academy, Mr Sternberg said he will carry on while headteacher Martyn Boxall stands down at the end of term.

Ms Cooper says that Mr Sternberg was “making moves to improve things but hadn’t had time” before the inspection.

“It feels like no allowance was made on the fact there was an interim in place and they were somehow expected to have it perfect in two months,” she added.


Ms Cooper believes the Ofsted report and uncertain future is having a negative effect on staff.

She said: “These teachers are rooted in the community and quite invested in what happens to students.

“The upshot is it messing with your self-esteem. They have to go out every day and face those parents but now they’ll feel judgment.”

Brent & Kilburn Times: Byron Court Primary SchoolByron Court Primary School (Image: Street View)

Staff fear that losing Byron Court as a local authority school could affect funding, she said, worsening working conditions and leading to individuals' education being overlooked.

Ms Cooper stated that she questions the Harris Federation’s behavioural policy and whether it would seek to exclude troublesome pupils rather than improving their behaviour.

Instead, she hopes that Brent Council can help support Mr Sternberg and the school without becoming an academy.

She concluded: : “The staff are dedicated, they’re hardworking and prepared to work on it. If Harris Federation come in, who knows what will happen?

“The major stakeholders have no say. The only thing we can do is then to take strike action.”

The Harris Federation was approached for comment.