Strike threat at school forced to become academy
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Monday 09 April 2012
Teachers at one of the first schools forced into becoming an academy by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, are threatening to go on strike.
Members of the National Union of Teachers at Downhills Primary School in Haringey, north London, are being balloted on taking action in the summer term.
A survey of opinions at the school revealed that 22 teachers were in favour of striking and none were against. All of the school's teachers are NUT members.
The strike is being viewed as a test case by teachers' leaders – Downhills is on a "hit list" of 200 schools earmarked by Mr Gove for academy status because of their perceived poor performance.
The union is pledging to give its members full pay for the duration of the strike. They are being asked if they will support "discontinuous" action – which means they could be called out at any time if they vote in favour of a walkout.
The teachers are being supported by parents, who are threatening legal action against Mr Gove for forcing Downhills to become an academy. They are claiming he has acted "irrationally".
Many of the parents visited the NUT conference in Torquay at the weekend, where teachers raised £1,200 to help them with their legal campaign. A poll of parents revealed that 90 per cent were against academy status – believing that Downhills was improving under its existing leadership.
Legally, the NUT can only take strike action over an industrial dispute, i.e. the change of employer from Haringey Council to the Harris Federation, which already runs a chain of academies.
Kevin Courtney, the NUT's deputy general-secretary, said: "We are against the change of employer and, if the employer doesn't change, it remains with Haringey. That's what we want.
"We want to know what support we have got among our members. They have indicated extremely high support – 22 of our members have told us they would be in favour and none told us they were against."
The Department for Education has always insisted that converting to academy status is the best possible way to secure a rise in standards at the school.
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