Strike called off after Moulsecoomb Primary’s academy sponsor pulls out

Posted On 17 Dec 2019 at 11:03 pm

Unions have called off a strike planned for next month after an academy trust pulled out of sponsoring Moulsecoomb Primary School in Brighton.

A statement issued yesterday on behalf of three unions said: “Everyone associated with Moulsecoomb Primary School is celebrating today following the decision of the New Horizons Academy Trust to withdraw from sponsorship.

“Parents, carers, staff, councillors and MPs have campaigned vigorously to keep the school as part of the Brighton and Hove family of schools and allow its journey of improvement.

“The decision follows a ballot of parents in which 96 per cent voted against academisation and unanimous strike ballots by NEU, Unison and GMB members.

“Strike action scheduled for January will not take place but if another sponsor tries to take over the school, the NEU, Unison and GMB will serve notice of further action.

“They are requesting that Ofsted revisits the school so that it can see how the school is continuing on a trajectory of improvement.

“Once that is confirmed, then the Secretary of State will be under pressure to respect the wishes of the community and revoke the academy order.

“Parents and staff are furious at the bitter parting remarks of Lee Murley, the director of the New Horizons Academy Trust, which runs only one other school.

“He said that the school faces closure, claimed that the staff were making the school ‘feel toxic’ and boasted that he would never ‘bow down’ to parental opposition.

“He regretted the ‘lost opportunity’ for children while neglecting to wish the school every success in the future.”

The National Education Union (NEU) branch secretary in Brighton and Hove, Paul Shellard, said: “Mr Murley chose to insult the loyal and committed staff at Moulsecoomb by saying they make the school feel toxic.

“Children, parents and carers have a very different view of those who work with them on a daily basis.

“We bear Mr Murley no ill-will and hope Seaside Primary in Lancing continues to prosper.

“It’s just a shame that he didn’t have the good grace to show support for Moulsecoomb Primary as he drove away from it.”

Banners on the March for Moulsecoomb – Picture by Councillor Sarah Nield

The school’s NEU rep Kay Hunt said: “Staff are undoubtedly pleased to hear that NHAT have pulled out of their sponsorship bid.

“Moulsecoomb has been continually improving their results with the support from the local authority and this shows in the recent data release.

“Teachers are constantly striving to support the children in reaching their full potential and this shows in the great progress that they are making daily.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the local authority to build on the improvements we have already made.”

Matt Webb, the Unison convenor in Brighton and Hove, said: “This Unison branch and its members are very pleased that New Horizon Academy Trust (NHAT) have decided to do the honourable thing and withdraw their tender for Moulsecoomb Primary School.

“We are confident that with the continued extra support and expertise of the local authority the school will continue to build upon the considerable progress that has already been made.

“In light of this and as promised, Unison (along with our sister trade unions) will be calling off the several days of strike action that were planned in the new year.”

March for Moulsecoomb by local head and NAHT member Hildi Mitchell

GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said: “It is fantastic news that New Horizons Academy Trust have now seen the light, listened to the opposition from almost all involved and walked away from taking over the school, finally letting the sun set on their privatisation of Moulsecoomb Primary School.

“The statement made by Mr Murley (head teacher of NHATs only remaining school, Seaside Primary) seems very bitter and despite what he writes there is clear evidence to show the school and its education is improving day by day, driven by the head teacher, dedicated staff and the support of the local education authority.

“We are perplexed by his claims that the school will have to close as a result of his trust pulling away, the second trust to do so, but am pleased to announce that them doing so means that the unions’ planned strike action for January can now be called off.

“The support that staff and pupils have had from the wider community and local politicians, especially re-elected Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, has been outstanding and we hope this will continue as the school can now focus on improvement rather than the threat of privatisation.

“Next we all rely on the Secretary of State waking up and accepting this school must remain under LEA control.

“The easiest way to achieve this is to call upon Ofsted to return and carry out a new assessment of the school which we will continue to fight for moving forward.”

Moulsecoomb parent Natasha Ide said: “I fully supported the staff at Moulsecoomb in taking strike action to save our school.

“The whole community is united and we will not stop fighting until our voices are heard.

“The last thing our children need is the instability of a trust with a poor track record taking over our school so it’s great news to hear that this sponsor has pulled out.”

  1. Peter Challis Reply

    So what happens to the school now? This could just be a Pyrrhic victory if the school closes or gets absorbed by a different one instead?

    • Hannah Clare Reply

      The school will not close. This is irresponsible scaremongering from the sponsor who pulled out. It will go back to the Regional Schools Commissioner for them to appoint another academy sponsor.

      • Peter Challis Reply

        In which case the political fight over academisation of the school has not been won – merely deferred.

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