Northamptonshire school teachers set to strike for two days over controversial academy trust takeover

'The situation at the school is disgraceful,' says union rep

By Jack Duggan
Thursday, 21st January 2021, 2:50 pm

Teachers at a Northamptonshire school will be going on strike for two days next week over the controversial plan to turn it into an academy.

National Education Union (NEU) members at Sywell CEVA (Church of England Voluntary Aided) Primary School will refuse to work next Tuesday and Thursday because of the proposed takeover by Peterborough Diocese Education Trust (PDET).

More than 800 people have signed a petition by parents opposing the plan while they have also they a socially-distanced 'beep' protest outside of the Overstone Road school.

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Sywell CEVA (Church of England Voluntary Aided) Primary School in Overstone Road, Sywell. Photo: Google

NEU senior regional officer Nick Raine said: “The situation at the school is disgraceful.

"A popular local school is being taken over against the wishes of its community and the staff who work there.

"The opposition to the takeover is unprecedented and the parents group have been fantastic. I would urge governors to listen to their community."

Opposition to the takeover started in January last year when parents started the petition and organised a public meeting to discuss it with PDET.

Currently, the school is part of the Diocese of Peterborough but it is also a maintained local authority school, funded and overseen by Northamptonshire County Council.

NEU members cancelled strike action last year in order to ensure key workers and vulnerable children could attend the school during the first coronavirus lockdown.

The union claims PDET pledged not continue with the takeover if the community opposed it but it fears the trust is backtracking despite the difficulties facing staff, parents and children during the pandemic.

Patrick Markey, of Northamptonshire NEU, which represents most of the school's staff, said: “Staff at the school have been brilliant during the pandemic and have loads of support from parents.

"We have asked PDET to postpone the takeover and talk to the staff and parents. So far they’ve been ignored so have no choice but to strike as they won’t listen."

The NEU says it will hold virtual meetings with parents and the community this week to ensure that they are informed about what is happening at the school.

To date, governors and PDET have not told parents about the strike, the union claimed.

A mother of a child at the school told the NEU: “I fully support the teachers. I signed the petition against the takeover and asked how this would help my children. I haven’t had a response.

"I don’t know why PDET want to take over our school but I’m worried it will change. They shouldn’t be doing this during a pandemic. It isn’t fair”

Another parent told the union: "We fully support the staff and teachers at Sywell Primary School.

"As parents, we wholly oppose converting the school into another PDET academy, especially in the midst of a national and global pandemic."

NEU Northamptonshire and Hands Off Sywell has arranged a virtual public meeting to discuss the academy conversion proposal at 7.30pm today (Thursday, January 21).

To join, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81892680394 and use meeting ID 818 9268 0394 and passcode 297268.