Pupils at Peacehaven Heights Primary school have staged a socially distanced protest in Peacehaven, displaying a banner asking, “Where’s our head at?” to highlight the failure of the Interim Executive Board (IEB) that is running the school to appoint a permanent Headteacher.
Parent campaigners claim that the IEB is intent on pushing through academy conversion without meaningful consultation of parents, which they argue cannot take place until parents are able to meet in person to discuss any proposals. The IEB has yet to provide any firm assurance that this will be the case.
The Governing Body that was responsible for the running of the school before being replaced with the IEB by East Sussex County Council previously attracted 14 high quality applicants for the post of Headteacher, yet the IEB has informed parents that they have been unsuccessful in their recruitment efforts. The school has now had five head teachers in the last 5 years and local parents believe the imposed IEB is deliberately delaying putting in vitally needed permanent leadership to justify academy conversion.
Vicky Hawkins, parent of a child in Year 3, said: “Since the autumn of 2019, the IEB has made just one attempt to recruit a Headteacher which was in February 2020 and have blamed Covid for the delays, but they have still managed to recruit a Deputy Head. So why no Headteacher? It is not acceptable to leave the school for this long without the stability of a permanent Headteacher.
“We feel that the appointment of a new Head is being purposely delayed to justify bringing in an academy trust to take over the school. The IEB have made one irreversible decision after another, such as making long standing staff redundant, filling in the school pool without consultation and now academy conversion seems to be the next thing on their agenda.
“Parents deserve proper consultation on this when Covid has passed. Right now, our school needs a permanent Headteacher to be appointed to support our children’s learning”.
The National Education Union is currently balloting its members at the school to take strike action over possible academy plans. They have called a public meeting on Zoom for parents and concerned members of the community for Tuesday 20th April that you can register for here: https://tinyurl.com/HandsOffPeacehavenHeights
Phil Clarke, National Education Union Branch Secretary in East Sussex said:
“The imposed IEB have no connection or interest in this community and only appear to be in place to hand the school over to a privately run academy chain. Everyone in this community needs to be asking themselves: who are the IEB acting in the interests of, the children or the expansion plans of an academy chain?
“Our members don’t take strike action lightly because they are well aware of the disruption it causes to education and parents. But they took strike action over exactly the same issue in 2019 and feel strongly enough to do it again.
“We support the parents entirely reasonable demands that consultation should not take place until they can meet in person and that a proper locally run Governing Body should be reinstated before any decision is made about the future of the school”.
The future of the school is due to become an election issue, with local elections in Peacehaven taking place in May. Labour candidates Chris Collier and Christine Robinson have actively supported the Hands Off Peacehaven Schools campaign and are standing on a pledge for schools to remain community schools and locally run.
Whereas incumbent Conservative Councillor for Peacehaven, Nigel Enever, wrote to residents to say that the council “has no role in the decision making and hence it is neither a Lead Member, Cabinet or County Councillor decision”. This is despite the County Council imposing the IEB upon the school and so far refusing to reconstitute a Local Governing Body to make important decisions about the future of the school.