Monday 21 January 2013

NUT claims victory at Preston Manor despite academy conversion going ahead

 PM at PM 5 years ago. What do Labour say now?

Press release from Brent Teachers Association

In calling off the strike action planned for Wednesday 23rd , Preston Manor School NUT members, the overwhelming number of teaching staff, thanked their union for negotiating the best possible deal to protect their terms and conditions of probably any converter academy in England.

Facing a potential closure of the school on Wednesday, and after a further negotiating meeting with the NUT on Thursday, all five key points asked for by the staff were fully greed by the school, alongside other guarantees, at the Joint Governors Staff Committee that evening. The two staff reps Jerry Taylor and David McLoughlin, both NUT members, were delighted with the outcome of the meeting. This would not have happened without that final threat of action.

There was disappointment that the Governors did not draw back from converting to an academy as they had gone ahead and signed the funding agreement despite the 86.5% of staff being against this move.

As Jean Roberts, Brent Teachers Secretary said:
Members have been solid in their determination to oppose this conversion, first voting overwhelmingly in the staff ballot and then as NUT members voting for action when your views were just ignored – not even a governors meeting was called to discuss the result. I would hope that Matthew Lantos, Headteacher and the Governors realise they will need to rebuild the trust of staff over what had happened and to apply those Co-operative values of democracy which they signed up to.
We are pleased, however, that we were able to negotiate the best possible terms for staff. We expect to receive all these concessions in writing in the next few days, as the NUT ballot is still live, and any reversal on what has been agreed would mean members again being called to take strike action.
My comment::

As a trades unionist since 1963 and a retired member of the NUT I welcome  the BTA's success in their conditions of service negotiations.

However, as an opponent of both Labour and the Coalition's policy on academies and free schools I regret that Preston Manor governors have gone ahead with academy conversion despite their assurances last year that becoming a Cooperative Trust did not mean that they intended to go one step further and become a Co-operative Academy in the near future. The signing of a funding agreement, apparently in secret, without responding to the staff and parent ballots opposing conversion bodes ill for the future.

This now means that only Copland High School remains outside the academy/voluntary aided sector. This places Copland in quite a dangerous position in terms of maintaining its position in competition  with other Brent secondary schools. When most Brent secondary schools converted to Grant Maintained status some years ago, with similar promises of autonomy,  the two schools that remained firmly in the local authority sector, Wembley High and Willesden High, were destabilised by high pupil turnover and an unbalanced intake with large number of refugee pupils and new arrivals. Willesden High became one of Labour's first academies as Capital City and Wembley went through some bumpy years before recovery.

Now Wembley High is an academy and it is planned that it becomes an all-though school with a four form entry (840 pupils plus nursery) primary department on site.  Preston Manor followed ARK academy in becoming an all-through school and now Wembley High is taking the same route.. Wembley High's current status, and the extent of privatisation can be summed up by this statement on its website:

Wembley High Technology College (The Academy) A Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England and Wales Registered No. 08137772 VAT Registered No. 140 4732 42

In the primary sector Sudbury has already voluntarily become an academy and forced conversion to academy status are taking place at Salusbury and Gladstone Park after poor Ofsted reports.It appears that primary schools are next in line for academisation.

Since starting this blog in 2009 under the Labour government I have been warning that this privatisation will remove the local democratic accountability of our schools, lead to the demise of the local authority and undermine equal provision for children with special needs and disabilities. The process is accelerating with the local authority reduced to spectators as Brent schools are snatched away from them.

More than ever we need that community campaign to reclaim our schools that I have been urging.

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