Staff on a picket line at Byron Court Primary Court Staff on a picket line at Byron Court Primary Court. Photo: Pete Webster

Pete Webster reports on the battle of staff, parents and local activists to prevent the academisation of Byron Court Primary School in Brent

The battle against the forced academisation of Byron Court Primary school in the London Borough of Brent saw three days of strikes this week and continues with two more on Tuesday and Thursday (25 & 27th June) next week.

The NEU and NASUWT members remain solid and determined to win despite agency staff being brought in to cover strike days.

Local rep Alice Butterton said:

Academisation goes absolutely against what our school has always been this is a really lovely school run by the local council and not for profit.

The dispute arose following a poor report from Ofsted in in November last year. The school was referred to the Education Minister, Gillian Keegan, who decided that it should taken out of maintained status and made into an academy, despite school management, staff and parents providing a credible recovery plan to bring positive improvements.

The Harris Federation, a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) that runs 55 separate academies, was chosen by the DoE. Staff, parents, and the wider community are determined to keep the school out of the clutches of Harris, recognising the threat to jobs and potential changes to teachers’ terms and conditions. They are determined to keep the school as a community asset and have rallied round in support. And a delegation recently delivered a 2000-name petition of local people to the DoE. Further action is planned in the run-up to the general election.

The NEU are demanding that Keegan revoke the decision, especially after the controversy over the tragic suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry in 2023, following the downgrading of her school from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Inadequate’ and the pressure these controversial single-word judgments create. 

While the industrial action continues, much hope is being placed in delays to the ‘due diligence’ process. It is hoped that a new Labour Secretary of State for Education will rescind the process, but this is by no means a done deal.

The strike mandate will need to be renewed if this doesn’t happen and there may be a need to take the dispute into the new academic year in September. 

Given Labour’s Wes Streeting stressing the importance of the ongoing privatisation in the NHS, we shouldn’t expect any different when it comes to the effective privatisation of state education.

With Labour’s commitment to squandering millions on maintaining military ambitions overseas, while underfunding essential services here, Starmer is guaranteed a very short honeymoon period.

This will result in numerous battles after the election, as Labour fails to deliver. Many of these will be small scale local affairs and others will have more of a national outlook.

Wherever they occur, it is essential that socialists intervene in order to give a lead and to link up various struggles. This will be key in building a network of activists who oppose this crazy system.

Join the picket 7.30 am Tuesday and Wednesday 25 & 27th June on Spenser Road, HA0 3SF

(Nearest tubes: South Kenton and Northwick Park)

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