Wednesday 19 March 2014

Hove Park School academy plans could spark teachers’ strike across Brighton and Hove

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Copied from The Argus

Union leaders have warned of a  teacher strike across Brighton and Hove unless an improving school drops plans for academy conversion.hove park school

The potential walkout has been put forward by both Unison and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) after it was revealed management at Hove Park School were “considering” a move to academy status.

The school is one of the country’s most improved over the last few years with the number of students achieving five GCSEs at A* to C up by 25%.

This puts them in the top 2% of improving state schools nationally.

Alex Knutsen, from Unison, said: “The question our members want to know is why? The school has made vast improvements over recent years.

“From speaking to staff this is not something they want.”

The Brighton and Hove branch chairman added: “This is where we are going to draw the line.

“We’ve already got Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, Portslade Aldridge Community Academy and Whitehawk Primary.

“This is an issue that affects teachers and staff across the city.”

Paul Shellard, from the NUT, added: “We don’t want education to be deregulated.

“This would mean the school would be out of local democratic control and leave those in charge able to control such things as pay and conditions of our members.

“The school has achieved all these improvements with the local authority and we think that should continue.”

Hove Park head teacher Derek Trimmer held a meeting with staff on Tuesday (March 11) in which he is reported to have spoken about a potential academy move.

A meeting of the two unions followed on Thursday at which a ballot on whether staff were for or against the move was launched. The results are expected on Wednesday.

Union leaders from both Unison and NUT are now set to meet with the chairman of governors and the headteacher on Monday.

Mr Trimmer told The Argus the improving school “needed to move onto the next level” adding that academy status provided the freedom to achieve the goal.

He said: “If we look to become an academy, it will be about us having the power to shape our own future.

“It will be about partnerships and having the capacity to support other schools. It will be about raising aspiration and ambitions, and ultimately, about the children.

“Hove Park School has moved on so far in the past three years. You can’t keep being the most improved school. We need to move on to the next level and Academy status brings greater freedoms to enable this.

“We have got to picture a future when all schools could be academies. I don’t want to be one of the last ones and have to join someone else’s academy. I want to lead the way.”

Academies have attracted controversy ever since they introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour government.

Although state-funded they act as independent from local authority control.

As a result they have more freedom with regards their finances, curriculum and term dates.

They can also opt out of national pay and conditions for teachers.

Brighton and Hove schools have largely avoided conversion with just two of the city’s 10 secondary’s now academies: Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and Portslade Aldridge Community Academy.

Mr Knutsen said: “We never want to go on strike, but this is huge issue for our members.

“We will have to wait and see what the next move is from the governors and the head before anything is decided.

“However, if they chose to go ahead we will ballot members across the city on industrial action.

“It’s not only Hove Park, we are hearing rumours of other schools considering academy status. We need to draw a line.”

Mr Shellard, NUT Brighton and Hove branch secretary, added: “With the other two city academies, problems had been identified. But Hove Park is different, it is an improving school and would therefore be the first to voluntarily put forward for academy status.

“It’s symbolic and we have to show there are other options.

“Nothing has been decided but giving the teachers across the city the option to take industrial action is a possibility.”

Last night pupils were sent home with letters from the chairman of governors, Mike Nicholls.

In it he said the school was beginning a period of “self-review” in which they would consider a move to academy status.

He added: “Should the governing body decide to express an interest in becoming an academy parents and carers will of course be fully consulted.”

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