Moulsecoomb Primary staff to be balloted for strike action

Posted On 11 Oct 2019 at 12:50 pm

All three unions representing staff at Moulsecoomb Primary School are to be balloted for strike action over government plans to turn the school into an academy.

Members of the National Education Union, UNISON and GMB unions previously ran indicative ballots indicating overwhelming support for such action – and the unions say if these ballots show similar results, there could be a strike as early as next month.

The three unions have since written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, asking him to revoke the academy order imposed in April after Ofsted rated the school inadequate.

The unions say that since the inspection there has been clear progress in the areas deemed inadequate.

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None of the unions received a reply to their letters and now they say they are left with no option but to ballot for strike action.

The NEU’s Paul Shellard, speaking on behalf of all three unions commented: “Teachers, teaching assistants and support staff at Moulsecoomb are united with parents, the council and the community who have made it clear that private academy sponsors are not welcome.

“The National Education Union, UNISON and GMB unions will stand together in the fight against forced academisation and we fully support our members in taking action if necessary.

“If we are forced to strike, it is because we are left with no other option to prevent the disruptive threat hanging over the school from academy sponsors who have no connection with Brighton & Hove.

“The Secretary of State has the power to prevent any strikes by acknowledging the school’s improvement and revoking the academy order, and we urge him to do so.”

Parents have been campaigning strongly for the order to be revoked since a public meeting was held at the school in June. Over 300 people marched from the school into town in July.

In September parents protested outside the school gates during the visit of a potential academy sponsor, which has since withdrawn from the process. Last week campaigners hand delivered more than 1,000 post cards signed by members of the community to the Department for Education, calling on the Secretary of State to revoke the order.

Parent, Natasha Ide, said: “Parents are strongly opposed to our school being taken over by a multi-academy trust and we’ve shown that with the results of the parent ballot.

“Although a strike would affect some families, we will work together as a community to help each other out. If there is a strike, I will be on the picket line to show my support for the teachers and support staff.”

Brighton and Hove City Council is also opposed to the move. In June a motion was unanimously approved by Labour, Green and Conservative councillors, stating that the council was providing extensive support to the school and that the council does not believe that an academy sponsor is necessary to improve standards of the school.

On Monday, the results of a council run parent ballot showed 96% of the 61% parents responding are opposed to the plans.

Members of all three unions will now be balloted over the coming weeks and union officials say that they could take strike action by early November if necessary, but will only use strike action as an option when an academy trust is named as a sponsor, to lessen the impact upon children’s learning and school improvement.

Calvin Cumiskey, teacher and NEU rep said: “Going on strike is the last resort for staff, but we feel we have no choice if we are to protect the school and keep it in the community.

“The result of the parent ballot was incredible, and we’ve been really impressed by the dedication of the campaigning parents.

“We appreciate that strike action will inconvenience some parents and we will only use it when absolutely necessary. First and foremost, we care about the education of our pupils and want our school to be the best it can be.

“I hope the Secretary of State sees sense, recognises that our school is not inadequate and revokes the academy order, so we don’t have to use strike action.”

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