Staff at Preston primary school to take strike action over plans to transform it into academy

Staff at a Preston primary school will take strike action over plans to transform it into an academy.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 4:55 am

More than 35 teachers and support staff will be walking out in December (9, 14, 15, and 16) as part of six planned days of strike action at Preston St Matthew’s Church of England Primary against the school’s removal from local authority control to Cidari multi-academy trust, which is a private company linked to the

Diocese of Blackburn.

The National Education Union has said that the process undermined local democracy and threatens staff terms and conditions.

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Staff at a Preston primary school will be taking strike action Picture posed by models

Bora Oktas, NEU regional officer, said: “A haphazard consultation was launched in October into the prospect of St. Matthew’s CE Primary School

on New Hall Lane joining the Cidari academy trust.

“However, our members have overwhelmingly come out in opposition to the conversion; 96.8 per cent of staff have voted ‘yes’ for strike action. There has not been a ‘meaningful consultation’ as required by law – either with our members or the parents of children attending the school. The school’s governing body has

extended what was initially planned to be a three-week consultation period by a further month, so that it now ends on Friday, November 26. What the governing body has not done, however, is to listen our members’ concerns and suggestions or provide any evidence that this is anything other than a fait

accompli.

“So, we cannot say that this is a meaningful consultation. The teachers and support staff at St Matthew’s once again are disappointed that the employer has still not had one single meeting with them.”

Ian Watkinson, Preston NEU branch secretary, said: “In a formal ballot, our members have now overwhelmingly voted against the school’s conversion. They

will take ‘discontinuous industrial action’ over the next few weeks.

“We leafleted parents collecting their children just on Wednesday afternoon and most of them were still unaware of the academy proposal. Almost all the parents we spoke to told us that they would support the strike action. We have now collected over 100 signatures from parents against the academisation of St

Matthew’s.”

Peter Middleman, NEU regional secretary, said: “Our members have asked the employer to meet with us and to negotiate with a view to avoiding a serious

escalation including significant strike action but they’ve heard nothing back.

“There is a huge opposition to this locally and our members are overwhelmed with the support they’re getting from the parents.

“Although we’ve had good support from the leader of Preston City council, the school’s status as Voluntary Aided means that the Governing Body has substantial control and it is them who are accountable to parents – including for the avoidable disruption any industrial action will cause. Ironically, by converting to

an academy the governance of the school going forward would be further removed from any democracy or local accountability and it’s clear that parents and others in the community are worried about this.