BY JAMES TWOMEY
Parents and teachers from two schools joined forces to protest against one turning into an academy and the other making staff redundant.
The John Roan School in Maze Hill, Greenwich and the Halley Academy in Corelli Road in Kidbrooke have both faced protests over their becoming academies.
Parents, teachers and students boarded two open top double decker buses on Tuesday, with the John Roan School protesters heading to the Department for Education (DfE) buildings in Westminster and the Halley Academy protesters to their trust’s headquarters in Strood, Kent.
The John Roan School was rated “Inadequate” by Ofsted, so Education Secretary Damien Hinds imposed an academy order in June 2018.
Protesters want him to revoke the order – as he has done with other schools – because the school is improving with support from Greenwich council.
One of the protestors, Kes Grant, a priest from Charlton and grandmother of three children at The John Roan school, said: “Child education is so important and far too important to be left to big business – that would be wrong on so many fronts.
The money saved from going into fat cats’ pockets can be used to make improvements in the school. “We’re also very worried about academies getting rid of the less academically gifted and students with behavioural problems – they bear the brunt of this.
“For teachers to come here today who are willing to put their jobs on the line – I take my hat off to them. “The protest was upbeat and jovial. The kids benefitted from seeing what a good protest is about.
“Despite what others have said it’s not our campaign style to be rude. Don’t mistake passion for rudeness.”
Schools minister Lord Agnew said “Ofsted found the school to be inadequate, and we simply won’t stand for underperformance to persist when the benefits of academisation speak for themselves, which is why we are working to secure a trust with a strong track-record of raising standards to take on the school.”
Jon Coles, chief executive of United Learning, one of the academy trusts protesters are worried about taking over The John Roan school, tweeted about the protest.
Mr Coles said: “Fifteen adults including anti-academy campaigners from Barking and six children on a bus, claiming to represent The John Roan strikers and parents just stopped and shouted abuse outside our London office and were rude to our reception staff over the intercom.
“They claimed to have a letter to deliver but didn’t post one. As an example of a shambolic and back-firing campaign, this takes the biscuit. I’m now determined to bring the school into the group to sort out the damage these people have caused to children.”
A spokesman for United Learning said: “Children at the school will now have endured a 13th day of strike action. Fortunately for them, the small group of protesters seemed to contain very few who actually currently work at the school.
“Whilst no one has been announced as sponsor for the school, the number of current parents and staff who have contacted us asking for The John Roan to join our group far outweighs the number who were protesting.”
Staff at the Halley Academy – which is part of the multi-academy trust Leigh Academy Trust – went on strike to protest the redundancies of 19 support staff in April.
One of the victims, Kim Fellows, said: “All of us support staff were going to be tested with point scores and told that the best six would would stay and the others would have to leave. I’ve been there for 15 years and it was so demeaning.
“Me and seven others decided to just leave. We don’t want to work for people that say we don’t bring anything to the kids. “We went to protest outside the school and some of the kids were crying – they were saying things like ‘how are we going to get through these exams?’.
“They’re never going to get A-Cs but with the support staff at least they get something. Now all the teachers will have extra work. “When we got the news we just tried to say ‘stop these cuts’.
We were all crying for quite a few weeks. We were there for the kids but they don’t seem to care about them anymore. It’s not fair on them.”
Tim Woodcock, National Education Union secretary, said: “The strike action at the Halley Academy is a direct result of the Leigh Academy Trust making the decision to remove 19 support staff just before exams.
This will have a huge impact on pupils’ wellbeing and learning. Teachers’ workload will obviously be directly affected. The trust must enter into meaningful discussions about saving those valuable jobs.”
A spokesman for Leigh Academies trust said: “In protest against a restructuring exercise which we have recently completed, union officials have encouraged their members to take further strike action at The Halley Academy.
“To address the current cost pressures we are under, and to stabilise our future, we have made savings wherever possible in other areas but a reduction in support staff numbers has become inevitable.
“Whilst the salary of our chief executive is entirely unrelated to this dispute it is worth clarifying that The Halley Academy only pays a small proportion of his salary and not the whole amount as has been suggested by the unions.
“His salary, like those of the central team, are spread across all 23 LAT academies at a lower percentage rate than many multi-academy trusts.”