Ian Crosson reports on last week’s strikes in Lewisham schools against academisation
On Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 March there was a very well supported strike in the three Lewisham Borough secondary schools in south east London who are part of the Prendergast federation.
This is the third time that staff from the NUT and NASUWT have taken strike action against Executive Headteacher David Shepherd’s plan to convert the three secondary schools into an academy.
The Headteacher who has been in post for about a year and came from the Charter School in Southwark is refusing to allow a ballot of parents to decide the status of the 3 schools.
The Prendergast federation is governed by the guild of Leathersellers. This might sound like a benevolent medieval guild but in fact they are merchant bankers and hedge fund managers.
The vast majority of staff and a significant number of parents are totally opposed to the plans to rush through academy status.
There were pupils supporting their teachers on the picket line on the two day strike. The pupils at Hilly Fields Prendergast organised their own protest a week earlier saying they would not be ‘Shepherd’s Sheep!’
Last Saturday (21 March) there was also a successful protest organised in Lewisham High Street to build support for the campaign and the strike.
The management have now started an official consulatation on the proposed academy status which began on Monday 23 March and ends on Monday 18 May.
Lewisham borough has hardly any secondary schools that are academies and the campaign and the unions are determined to try and maintain this situation. In neighbouring Southwark, all the secondary schools are now not in local authority control and most are academies or voluntary aided religious schools.
Lewisham council, which has a huge Labour majority, has taken a position of neutrality on the proposed academy plans. However, pressure from the campaign is having an impact as the mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock has recently stated that he believes that there now should be a ballot of parents.
The strike got good coverage from ITV London and it was significant that the Executive Head refused to give an interview to ITV to try and justify his proposals.
The strike action this week has further increased the pressure and raised the profile and confidence of everyone who is opposed to the academy plans.
Hopefully there will be an escalation of strike action and the Head will either be forced to retreat or at the very least allow a ballot of parents in the three schools.