School staff strike in Willesden against academy plans

Staff and parents strike against St Andrew and St Francis CofE primary school in Willesden being tu

Staff and parents strike against St Andrew and St Francis CofE primary school in Willesden being turned into an academy - Credit: Archant

Teachers and parents held a picket line outside a Willesden primary school to fight plans that will see it changed into an academy.

The walk out at St Andrews and St Francis School C of E Primary in Belton Road today will be repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday next week and are threatening further strike action if the conversion goes ahead.

Union members and parents have organised a petition claiming the school is being forced to change to an academy status after it was placed under special measures following one visit by education watchdogs Ofsted last year.

Under government rules, special measure schools are forced by the Department for Education to convert to an academy. This means the school is no longer under local authority control and instead it is funded by central government and given its own sponsors.

Lesley Gouldbourne, Brent NUT secretary, who represents the majority of the teaching staff at the school, said: “Staff at the school deeply regret that it has come to this. Strike action is a last resort, but the school is not a failing school.

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“Despite our and parents objections no proper information was given to parents and no secret ballot allowed despite our offering to cover the cost. Parents and teachers have had enough of education by dictatorship.”

Hank Roberts, ATL secretary, who also represents staff at the school said: “The so-called consultation was a farce. Only reasons why the school should become an academy were sent to parents with no information allowed to be sent to them with arguments against becoming an academy.

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“They know the vast majority of parents, when they are given the facts, are against. Parents and staff are standing firm to defend their children’s education.”

The school, which currently has no headteacher since its last one stepped down after it was placed in special measures, has since made improvements which has been recognised by Ofsted.

The school is currently being overseen by Alison Loffler, executive head teacher of John Keble Primary School in Crownhill Road, Harlesden, and an Interim Executive Board (IEB).

Irene Scorer, a parent with children at the school, said: “We as parents support our teachers and our children’s education. Under an academy we can’t see our children’s education improving. As the latest Ofsted monitoring report shows the school is improving. Therefore if it’s not broken, why try and fix it?”

A Brent Council spokesperson said: “It is central government policy that schools in special measures become academies. Since this is inevitable, it is better that the future of the school is resolved speedily.

“We are aware that trade unions are against St Andrews and St Francis School becoming an academy, however it is important to note that the majority of parents who took part in a consultation earlier this year on the school becoming an academy, said that they were in favour of the proposal.”

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