Teachers strike at Avenue Primary School in Manor Park over academisation plans

A number of banners were held up by campaigners

A number of banners were held up by campaigners - Credit: Archant

Teachers and support staff have gone on strike today over proposals to turn their school into an academy.

A number of banners were held up by campaigners

A number of banners were held up by campaigners - Credit: Archant

More than 50 employees have been joined by parents outside Avenue Primary School in Meanley Road, Manor Park, although the Recorder understands headteacher, Hafise Nazif, is not part of the protest.

They are opposed to moving from local authority control to management by the EKO Multi-Academy Trust, alleging it will undermine the pay, conditions and job security of all the school’s staff.

Avenue’s national education union school representative, Louise Cuffar, said: “Avenue Primary School is a good school.

“There is every reason to stay as a local authority community school and absolutely no reason to hand over our school building and land to a multi-academy trust who have no connection or interest in the local community and the children who attend or will attend our school in the future.”

The teacher also claimed that staff’s “pay and conditions won’t be maintained” based on their knowledge of other schools taken over by academies.

Louise added: “The number of LSAs will be cut, experienced teachers will be forced out and be replaced by cheaper staff all to the detriment of the education of the children.”

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The claims have been rejected by the school’s governors and senior leadership team.

Kevin Courtney, co-leader of the National Education Union, joined people on the picket line earlier today.

The trade association - formed by the merger of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers on September 1 - criticised the school for only informing parents of the strike yesterday despite being given notice two weeks ago.

Plans for a second strike on December 14 are due to be put to a vote.

The walk out is being supported by a number of parents who have criticised the “lack of transparency” over the plans, saying their voices have been “ignored”.

Avenue parents group spokeswoman Salema Khatun, 38, said: “Parents feel quite angry that they have been kept in the dark.

“What the school has not done is educate people about what academies are - the pros and cons so people can make an informed decision.”

The parent-of-three also queried how the trust, which runs four other primary schools, will cope with another 900 pupils on its books.

Denis Shea, Avenue Primary School’s chair of the governing body, said: “The NEU’s decision to call strike action shows a blatant disregard for the education of our pupils.

“The NEU are forcing young people to cross a picket line and the headteacher has worked tirelessly to ensure that the school will open today.”

A Newham Council spokewoman said staff who are NEU members were offered arbitration as an alternative to strike action, while the consultation was ongoing and no final decisions had yet been made.

She said the school’s governors and the senior leadership team believe a multi-academy trust would “provide more rigour and challenge to its teaching methods” and there was “reduced capacity from local authorities to support schools”.

Staffing levels had also been considered with plans for a “wider leadership and management structure” to be implemented if the move to an academy went ahead.

The spokeswoman added: “It is for our schools to decide how best to improve the educational standards for their pupils and we will continue to support our schools.

“The EKO trust and Avenue’s governing body and senior leadership team have repeatedly assured staff and given a clear commitment that their terms and conditions would remain the same when they move across.”