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Roe Green Strathcona staff picket outside Brent Civic Centre against school closure plans

PUBLISHED: 18:30 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:30 25 June 2019

Hema Dahale, Roe Green Strathcona union representative (centre) as teachers strike outside Brent Civic Centre, Picture: Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Hema Dahale, Roe Green Strathcona union representative (centre) as teachers strike outside Brent Civic Centre, Picture: Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg

Striking staff, parents and children from Roe Green Strathcona picketed Brent Civic Centre this morningin the hope of saving their school from closure.

Children from Roe Green Strathcona School join their teacher's strike and picket line. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergChildren from Roe Green Strathcona School join their teacher's strike and picket line. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

They invited council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt to stand in solidarity with the 20-strong group when he arrived for work, but he instead stood facing them to field their questions.

Brent's cabinet launched a formal consultation on the future of the Strathcona Road school on June 17.

Some 99.4 per cent of people consulted had made objections during an earlier informal consultation, but the council says demand for school places is falling.

It has already agreed to cut the upper age limit from 11 (Year 6) to seven (Year 2), which teachers said was "setting them up to fail".

Cllr Muhammed Butt responds to accusations from union leaders and staff from Roe Green Strathcona school. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergCllr Muhammed Butt responds to accusations from union leaders and staff from Roe Green Strathcona school. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

The school was opened in 2014 and given permanent status two years later.

The leader said the council was considering a "phased approach", but wouldn't say whether he meant a "phased approach" to closing the school.

Nor could he immediately answer questions about why he did not check data in 2014 that predicted a growth of school pupils and the need for the school to open.

Teachers asked why Brent's administration was expanding schools, such as Byron Court Primary School, while at the same time saying pupil numbers were falling.

Staff, pupils, parents from Roe Green Stratchcona picket with union reps against the proposed closure of the primary school. Picture: Nathalie Raffray Staff, pupils, parents from Roe Green Stratchcona picket with union reps against the proposed closure of the primary school. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

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Cllr Butt also refused to guarantee that there would be no redundancies, to shouts of "shame on you" from teachers.

But he explained: "I'm not going to promise you anything - there has been no discussion. You need to participate in the consultation; you need to make sure your voices are heard."

Patrick, eight, said to the leader: "It will make everybody down by closing the school. We achieve so much, we have our values and ethos, so many things in our school - there are so many reasons not to close our school down."

Cllr Butt responded: "If you don't give children what they need, you hinder their chances. We don't want to hinder any children's opportunities."

Elizabeth Bankole, of Brent Unison, who was passing by ahead of a meeting of union members, said: "I support this 100 per cent. Explain why Roe Green is going to be closed down."

But Cllr Butt merely praised her "passion".

Mother of five Oana Buliga told the Times: "It is very difficult for me. My son is starting in reception, where do they go?"

Cllr Muhammed Butt responds to accusations from union leaders and staff from Roe Green Strathcona school. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergCllr Muhammed Butt responds to accusations from union leaders and staff from Roe Green Strathcona school. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Her son Silvan, 10, added: "I feel quite sad if the school closes down. The teachers will lose their jobs and it will be hard for them and my mum and other people to find a new school."

Hema Dahale said: "Which parent is going to send their child to a school that's closing? They have set us up to fail."

Teacher and Kensal Green councillor Jumbo Chan (Lab) praised the strikers' "brave actions" and urged Brent to "defend" its community assets.

Cllr Butt said last week: "We need to have a full discussion to ensure we take the right steps going forward."

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