The battle to stop Moulscoomb Primary school being privatised is about to recommence following an announcement that three Academy Trust sponsors have their sights set on taking over the school. Brighton and Hove Council and Moulsecoomb Primary have not yet been officially informed of the identity of the trusts but it has emerged that a director of one of the Trusts was an Ofsted Inspector that rated the school as ‘inadequate.’ His Trust has already requested to visit the school. According to the Department for Education, the deal could be done and dusted by the end of March.
Campaigners involved in the vigorous community campaign to keep Moulsecoomb Primary in the Brighton and Hove family of schools have reacted with anger to this attempt to rush through academisation, just as schools are dealing with opening more widely during the pandemic. However, they are determined to stop the sponsors, having already seen off three previous Trusts. A parental ballot, arranged by the council, showed that 96% of parents were opposed to Moulsecoomb Primary being removed from the Brighton and Hove family of schools.
An online public meeting for parents and local people is being held on Wednesday 10th March at 6pm and it will be addressed by Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Green, Labour and Independent councillors, along with parents and trade unions. People will be able to find out more about the trusts, ask our local politicians what they can do to support the campaign and get involved in activities. Details of the meeting can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/HandsOffMPS
Following the ‘inadequate’ Ofsted judgement nearly two years ago, the school is on a trajectory of improvement. An Ofsted monitoring visit, before the pandemic took hold, reported that effective action is being taken with the school’s improvement plan described as ‘fit for purpose’ and leaders having ‘a clear set of principles and values that inform the work of the school community.’ This is a great tribute to the Headteacher, teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to raise achievement. The report was greeted warmly by parents, staff, and unions as it confirmed the overwhelming view that the school will thrive as part of the Brighton and Hove family of schools. This correlates with national data which shows that schools with difficulties are more likely to improve their performance by remaining with a local authority, and at a faster rate, than by being privatized.
The academy order can only be revoked by the Secretary of State for Education. Unions and parents are calling on Gavin Williamson MP to secure the school’s future and announce it can remain a community school. In a frank and revealing statement in the monitoring report, the inspectors observed that the focus on providing ‘high quality education for all’ is being hindered because ‘the headteacher has had to devote his energies to matters related to the academy order and the restructuring of staffing’.
Parent campaigner, Natasha Ide, said:
“After hearing that three new trusts are trying to take over our school, it’s time to step up again and show our community spirit. We all need to do our bit to save our children’s school from privatisation as we have done successfully for the past 2 years.
“It’s outrageous, but I’m not surprised, to hear that a Director working for one of these academies was one of the Ofsted inspectors who rated our brilliant school inadequate. It seems like they will go to any length to get our school, but we will fight with the great local community spirit we have.
“We need as many parents and community members as possible to attend our public meeting and support our campaign. Hands off Moulsecoomb Primary School!”
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.
We expect this vibrant community campaign to be revitalised. Staff, parents, the community and our public representatives can stop the sponsors in their tracks.’
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 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.’
Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary, Brighton and Hove said:
‘This campaign has been a success thanks to the support of staff, parents, children, the local community and Labour and Green administrations.
We will continue to fight and defend the school and 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.
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.’