Staff at St Andrew and St Francis CofE Primary in Belton Rd, Willesden, Brent took their fifth day of strike action on Thursday in protest at their school being forced to become an academy. The theme on the picket line was ‘Democracy denied: IEB refuses parents’ ballot’. After the picket line staff and parents went along the Willesden High Rd asking shopkeepers to display no academy notices which they were very happy to do. These notices are also being displayed in parents’ front windows and some are putting them in their cars to make sure the message is spread – no academy.
At the meeting yesterday evening in St Andrew’s Church attended by staff and parents Bridget Chapman, a speaker from the Anti Academies Alliance, said she had seen all the notices in the shops as she came from the tube station. It made a real impact. She fully supported the parents’ ballot. She said, “What are they so afraid of? She praised staff and parents for their stand against the privatisation of our education. “This is just giving away land and buildings to businesses,” she expalined.
Dawn Butler, Labour candidate for Brent Central, told parents that if Labour won the general election then she would do her utmost to get the decision to force the school into an academy reversal. She said that whatever happens on Thursday she would give full support to the campaign to have a parents’ ballot. “I say this because I believe in it. You are pushing at an open door”, she said.
Irene Scorer, parent, then handed over a petition against the academy to Dawn signed by 200 parents accounting for 290 children out of the 400 at the school. This is clearly a large majority and outstrips the 32 who said they supported the academy in the sham consultation. Many of these parents have since learning about academies changed their minds and signed the petition.
Three parents gave their views.
Hamid El Hadi said:
I support everyone who is against this academy. This is affecting our children and the teachers are stressed. All we want is a ballot. We’re not asking for the earth.
Bharat Gorsia said:
We are being lied to by the school. We are told nothing will change. If it isn’t broken why fix it.
Syed Karrar told the audience that his daughter has had five teachers since Easter and that all this move to an academy had unsettled everyone.
Hank Roberts, Brent ATL secretary also spoke and praised the commitment of staff and parents and said there was still all to win. Others who spoke from the audience agreed and there was an overall enthusiasm to continue the fight until justice prevails. Parents were informed that there would be two further days of strike action on Tuesday 12th May and Thursday 14th May. The unions had called off one of the strike days this week in an act of goodwill to try and reach agreement with the IEB on a ballot and TUPE negotiations. They heard on Wednesday that nothing had been agreed on any of the issues. Parents agreed that two days had to go ahead as the pressure needed to be kept up.
The unions, staff and parents have been trying to meet with key people from Brent and the LDBS to discuss things. The Bishop of Willesden declined a meeting but did say that the HMI inspection last Thursday and Friday, “they [the school] received a very favourable outcome indeed”. So, as the parents and staff say, why change the school into an academy if it has made significant improvements and likely to come out of special measures?
Messages of support from around the country were relayed to the meeting including this statement from Martin Francis, Brent Green party spokesperson on children and families.
Please convey the support of Brent Green Party for the staff and parents in their fight against forced academisation. We see academies and free schools as a form of privatisation that removes democratic accountability and prepares the way for profit making from education. Green Party policy is to integrate academies and free schools into the local authority school system.
Muhammed Butt did not attend and did not send any statement about his position with regards a ballot as he had been asked to, much to everyone’s disapproval.