Protests by parents and children stop primary schools from becoming academies

'I am so relieved that good sense has prevailed'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 22 May 2019 18:56 BST
Peacehaven parents stage day of action to save local schools

Parents, children and teachers who protested against two primary schools in East Sussex being turned into academies have been told they will stay under local authority control.

Strike action, which was due to take place on Thursday, has been suspended after a decision to academise Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs Primary Schools was reversed by governors.

It came after hundreds of parents, children and teachers marched against plans to convert the schools into academies, which are state schools independent of local councils, earlier this month.

National Education Union (NEU) and GMB members have called off walk-outs after parents received letters from governors confirming the reversal.

Around 250 protestors took to the streets of Peacehaven to march against plans to hand the primary schools – as well as Peacehaven community secondary school - to an academy trust.

Cherry Lean, whose child attends Telscombe Cliffs School, has told The Independent she was concerned vital support staff could be cut to fund larger salaries for academy bosses.

Both primary schools have announced the academisation plans have been scrapped - but it is understood that the dispute at the secondary school is ongoing.

Parents, children and teachers took part in a day of action in Peacehaven
Parents, children and teachers took part in a day of action in Peacehaven (Alice Burchfield)

On the campaign's victory, Alice Burchfield, parent of two pupils at Peacehaven Heights, said: “I am so relieved that good sense has prevailed and our schools can remain in the hands of our community where the interests of our children are put first.”

Parents, pupils and staff will assemble outside Peacehaven Heights School on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the governors’ decision.

It comes after The Independent revealed opposition against the removal of schools from local authority control has surged, with parents increasingly leading battles against conversions.

The increased use of WhatsApp and social media groups connecting opposing parents across the country, including those who have been successful in their fight, has spurred families on.

Phil Clarke, secretary of the Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NEU, said: “Our members are very pleased with the principled stand the governors have taken and believe this is the best decision for the schools and the communities they serve.

“Nationally the academies program is increasingly falling apart as privatisation is now clearly not seen as the answer to school improvement.”

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A statement from Telscombe Cliffs Primary School said: “The governors have been looking closely at all options and having successfully appointed a dedicated and capable permanent headteacher they feel the school has the capacity to continue its upward journey.

“Everyone – children, staff and parents - have worked hard and the governors do not feel it is in the best interests of the children for the school to become an academy while we capitalise on our recent improvements.”

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