One year ago, teaching and support staff at Moulsecoomb took strike action to stop their school being turned over to an academy chain. It was part of a vigorous community campaign to keep Moulsecoomb Primary in the Brighton and Hove family of schools. Two potential sponsors pulled out when they saw how committed the community was to keeping its school.
On the anniversary of that strike, members of the National Education Union, UNISON and GMB, who represent nearly all staff at the school, have announced unanimous support in ballots for further strike action, in the event of an academy sponsor being imposed on the school. ‘We are prepared to strike again if we have to’ is the united message of teachers and support staff.
The school is on a trajectory of improvement, recognised by an Ofsted monitoring visit before the pandemic took hold, but the Covid situation means that Ofsted is not currently inspecting schools, leaving Moulsecoomb in limbo.
Campaigners have called on Gavin Williamson to recognise that the local community wants Moulsecoomb to remain a community school. 96% of parents voted against academisation in a ballot. Local MPs and councillors, and staff in schools across Brighton and Hove, have added their voices to the chorus of opposition. In a letter to Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, the Department for Education accepted the ‘depth of community unease.’
Unions and the ‘Hands Off Moulsecoomb’ campaign group are planning a public meeting on Zoom before the end of term to keep supporting the school and see off any sponsors that are put forward.
Paul Shellard, Secretary of Brighton and Hove NEU said:
‘Gavin Williamson should recognise that local people will not allow a school that is at the centre of the community to be a pawn in the privatization game. Teachers and support staff know Moulsecoomb needs stability and investment; to be supported in its work with pupils of all abilities. That why there is 100% backing for strike action if a sponsor is announced.
The current uncertainty is damaging to the school . The Department for Education should remove the disruptive threat of academisation so staff can concentrate on what they are employed to do: teach and support the children.’
Matt Webb, UNISON Brighton & Hove Education Convenor said:
‘Over the last year or so UNISON members at Moulsecoomb Primary have stood shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, parents, the community and our sister trade unions in seeking to keep the much-loved school in the accountable hands of the community it serves.
The campaign has since seen off calamitous and failing Multi-Academy Trusts through public pressure and industrial action to afford the school working the time it has needed to work with the local authority to address issues raised by OFSTED.
The resolve of that campaign has not faltered or declined in that time. UNISON members at the school last month proudly returned a 100% “YES” to strike so that if any more Multi-Academy Trusts wish to plunder, or otherwise disrupt the school, they can be sure of the battle they will face.’
Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary, Brighton and Hove said:
‘To date this campaign has been a success thanks to the support of staff, parents, children, the local community and Labour and Green administrations.
GMB and its members will continue to fight and defend the school and now a year on, GMB members have again returned another 100% YES vote for strike action to show any future Trust or Academy thinking of coming into the school that they are not welcome and that we are ready to take every step necessary to help ensure the school remains under local Authority control.
GMB will continue to support its members and other sister unions throughout this campaign for as long as it takes. We will not give up and instead we call upon the Secretary of State for Education to give up on his academisation plans and threats of privatisation. The school should be allowed to continue its focus on improving the school and children’s education in these already challenging times, without the unnecessary fear and disruption caused by this process.’
Natasha Ide, Parent Campaigner, Hands Off Moulsecoomb said:
‘I fully support the staff at Moulsecoomb in taking strike action to save our school. The whole community is united, and we will not stop fighting until our voices are heard. The last thing our children need is the instability of a trust taking over our school