Teachers to strike over academy status threat


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The Independent Online

Staff at a Birmingham primary school will go on strike today in what looks likely to be the first of a series of walkouts this year over Michael Gove's drive to turn underperforming institutions into academies.

Teachers claim the 695-pupil Montgomery Primary School is already improving and that there is no reason to convert it. However, it is on a list of 200 schools which the Education Secretary claims are not up to standard and should be turned into academies by the end of the year.

Battle lines between teachers' leaders and Mr Gove (pictured below) have already been drawn following his declaration that those who oppose academies are "happy with failure" and "enemies of promise".

In Montgomery's case, the school's governing body has voted in principle in favour of becoming an academy. But teachers' leaders cite its latest Ofsted report, which describes it as "satisfactory", adding: "Despite the considerable staffing turbulence over the past two years, the school has made satisfactory progress since the last inspection and is set to improve further."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Parents, teachers and the local community are united in their opposition to the imposition of academy status on the school. Results at the school are already improving and there is no evidence academies raise standards. This deeply unpopular plan is completely unjustified."

Kit Armstrong, regional official of the National Union of Teachers, said: "No one has been able to present any convincing arguments as to why this school should become an academy."

The strike at Montgomery follows a campaign in the north London borough of Haringey to stop Mr Gove forcing four primary schools to become academies.

The schools on the government's hit list have failed to reach its key target of teaching 60 per cent of pupils to the required standard in English and maths for five consecutive years.

In Montgomery's case, 53 per cent reached the target last year – the sixth year it had underperformed, according to the Department for Education. In some cases – as with Downhills Primary School in Haringey – the target was met last year and the school has since been deemed to be improving.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, warned at a public meeting that strike action at Downhills would be considered "as a last resort".

The NUT and NASUWT will be joined by the GMB, representing classroom assistants, in today's strike at Montgomery.

A spokeswoman for the DfE said: "Sponsored academy status will give the school the impetus it needs to raise standards and help pupils meet the national standards for literacy and numeracy."

The Government argues that bringing in a private sponsor gives schools more freedom to improve their performance than they would have under local authority control.