East London academy conversion plans scrapped after 19-day teacher strike

Plans to convert a school in east London into an academy have been abandoned after its teachers went on strike for 19 days.

A battle has been raging over the future of Avenue Primary School in Newham since parents were consulted about plans to covert it into an academy and join the EKO Trust in November.

The decision to go ahead was announced in December, leading to a high-profile campaign by parents and industrial action by the National Education Union (NEU) –  including 19 non-consecutive days of strike action –  over concerns about changes to staff terms and conditions.

The school, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at its most recent inspection in 2014, was originally expected to convert on April 1, but Newham council confirmed today that governors have shelved their plans in response to the industrial action. Staff and parents had even won permission to take the decision to judicial review.

The council, which passed a motion in February opposing forced academisation of the borough’s schools and supporting protestors’ calls for teacher and parent ballots over conversion, has been in negotiations with the governors and teachers since the dispute began.

Although the school and EKO Trust insisted staff terms and conditions would not change, the NEU was unconvinced, and following a number of attempts by the council to resolve the dispute, officials became “increasingly concerned about the ongoing disruption to the education of the children and impact on local families”, a council spokesperson said.

“The governors’ decision is one that they have taken in the best interests of their children and the council is committed to working with the school to ensure that they have the necessary support going forward to deliver improved attainment,” they added.

“We will also be working to identify what maintained schools need to remain within the local authority, provide additional support for our teaching staff and will be exploring the establishment of a sustainable education partnership for Newham.”

A spokesperson for the trust said it was “saddened”, but said that the decision had been made “to halt the industrial action at the school and ensure no more children missed education”.

Martin Powell-Davis, the London regional secretary for the NUT section of the NEU, said the governors “must have known the mounting evidence exposing academisation would mean a genuine debate could only reach one conclusion – to oppose transfer – and simply decided to withdraw their plans altogether”.

He warned that the “opposition will be even stronger” during any future attempts to convert the school to an academy.

Avenue is not the first school in Newham to back down on academisation plans following strikes and campaigns by staff and parents.

On March 21, governors at Brampton Primary School announced they would not go ahead with plans to convert the school to an academy under the Brampton Academy Trust.

And at the end of March, governors at Keir Hardie Primary School announced they had decided not to proceed with plans to convert the school “at this time” following three days of strike action.

However, governors at the Cumberland secondary school decided on April 30 to press ahead with plans to become an academy and join the Community Schools Trust, despite strike action.

Avenue Primary School was approached for comment.