Littlegreen School academy conversion row: Staff back strike action

People opposed to the conversion of Littlegreen School to an academy are due to present their petition to WSCC. Pic Steve Robards SR1827315 SUS-181010-171721001
People opposed to the conversion of Littlegreen School to an academy are due to present their petition to WSCC. Pic Steve Robards SR1827315 SUS-181010-171721001

Five days of strike action has been called at Littlegreen Special School in Compton due to fears over threats to jobs and terms and conditions.

A total of 89 per cent of National Education Union (NEU) members voted in favour of industrial action, which is scheduled for December 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13.

The school for boys with autism and other special educational needs is due to become an academy run by the Solent Academies Trust after an Ofsted inspection last November gave it an ‘inadequate’ rating.

However after a subsequent monitoring visit in July, Ofsted said the headteacher had ‘led decisive action since [her] appointment, and more rapidly since the inspection, to improve safeguarding arrangements and pupils’ behaviour’.

The union says it has not received a firm commitment from the academies trust there will be no compulsory redundancies following the transfer.

James Ellis, NEU regional officer, said: “This result demonstrates the strength of feeling that our members have about these matters, and that they are prepared to take this action to defend their terms and conditions.

“The Regional Schools Commissioner has forced an academy order on Littlegreen School which is both unnecessary and not wanted by teachers or parents. West Sussex County Council have failed to give us the reassurances over jobs and conditions which our members have demanded.”

Mr Ellis continued: “The Solent Academies Trust has been unable to provide a firm commitment that there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of a planned staff ‘review’ after the transfer.”

Parent campaigners have been fighting long and hard against the forced academisation which they argue will be an unnecessary disruption for the boys and represents a threat to the progress the school has made under its current leadership.

Parent Hayley Rose said: “I along with many others are delighted that staff are taking industrial action. I hope that relevant bodies will take notice and listen to what staff, parents and supporters from the wider community want.”

She continued: “Littlegreen School is progressing well under the current leadership and should remain a West Sussex County Council maintained school. Pupils are safe, settled and progressing, there is no need to disrupt them with changes that academisation will almost certainly bring.”

The first strike day of the November 5 will coincide with a 9am picket of striking staff, parents and community supporters outside County Hall in Chichester.

The union says it remains open to talks with the schools interim executive board of governors and West Sussex County Council.

Mr Ellis said: “We remain in contact with the employer over these matters, but as yet have not been able to reach an agreement. We remain committed to a negotiated solution. However, our members are prepared to take this action in December to defend their terms and conditions.”

When the ballot on strike action was announced a A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “We are committed to making sure children at Littlegreen School receive the best possible education. The Ofsted rating in November 2017, by law, means the school has to convert into an academy. We continue to work with the school, the Department for Education and Solent Academies Trust to ensure a smooth transition for pupils, staff and parents. As part of the transition, we are undertaking a thorough and appropriate consultation with staff regarding the arrangements for the transfer.”

Solent Academies Trust has been approached for comment.