Community leaders help Norwich school open


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The Independent Online

A headteacher kept her school open despite today's strike by inviting community leaders to take classes.

A doctor, politician and journalist were among those who helped keep the Ormiston Victory Academy in Norwich open, despite about half of the school's teachers joining the industrial action.

Other pupils were treated to a workshop with West End stars at the Open youth venue in the city.

An expected picket outside the school gates did not happen and two Police Community Support Officers stood by as children arrived as normal.

Headteacher Rachel de Souza had pledged to bring in former soldiers to run classes but it is believed the ex-servicemen pulled out at the last minute.

Among those taking classes was South Norfolk Conservative MP Richard Bacon.

He said: "I am a great admirer of Rachel de Souza and all she is doing for students in the Costessey area.

"We cannot afford to put students' education in jeopardy, no matter how strongly some teachers may feel about the present dispute.

"Whatever the nature of the disagreement, the students in our schools have no part in it."

Mr Bacon, the son of a primary school teacher, taught English to adults in Berlin during the 1990s and said he hoped to put this experience to good use.

"I will be speaking about politics and maybe about my recent trip to Tanzania. If the pupils are up for talking about the politics of industrial action, I'll be happy to do that," he added.

"The unions might not like what we're doing to keep the school open, but it is something we have to do for the pupils and for parents."

The school did not comment today, saying it was focusing on keeping lessons running.

Ms de Souza wrote on Twitter: "Thank you to tonnes staff and volunteers gathered for morning briefing victoryoak. We are staying open for the children and working parents."

Previously she said: "It's about not disrupting children's education and supporting our working parents.

"Everyone is suffering at the moment because of the economic situation and we don't want to make things harder for anyone.

"It's a simple principle - if we can stay open and support our kids' education, then that's what we must do."