Teachers go on strike at Hamstead Hall

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Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Hamstead Hall Community Learning Centre went on strike today (25.04.13) to oppose plans to convert it into an Academy.

NUT staff at the school, which is in Craythorne Avenue, Handsworth Wood, said that they had taken strike action ‘with a great deal of regret and after much deliberation’ following strenuous efforts to resolve the issue through negotiations.

The school was able to open for Years 7, 11, 12 and 13 as non-NUT staff at the school have yet to ballot on the issue.

In a leaflet distributed to parents/carers at the school gate, the NUT said the strike resulted from the failure of the headteacher and governing body to take staff concerns seriously and meaningfully consult on the proposed conversion.

They added that Academy status ‘would not be in the best interest of pupils’ and called on parents/carers to contact the school to ask for the conversion to be halted pending a thorough consultation.

Headteacher Kendrick Morris wrote to parents on 23 April setting out the case for conversion and expressing disappointment at the NUT decision to take strike action.

He argued that a successful application to convert would enable the school to apply for up to £500,000 to improve its buildings and environment and allow it to provide significant support to a local primary feeder school ‘currently in difficult circumstances’.

This is believed to refer to Grestone Primary School which was put in ‘special measures’ following an Ofsted inspection in November 2012.

He also said that many other local schools had already converted to academies or were in the process of doing so and that staff fears about changes to their terms and conditions of employment were unfounded. ‘The Governing Body and I will continue to reassure our teaching staff at Hamstead Hall that we will continue to employ all Teachers according to the National terms and conditions as a minimum when the school becomes an academy,’ he told parents.

A separate leaflet distributed on behalf of the Alliance Against Birmingham Academies representing seven teaching and support staff unions said there was no guarantee that if the school became an academy that it would get extra funding and that it could provide support for local feeder schools without changing its status. It also pointed out that the number of academy schools in Birmingham remains a minority.

Earlier this week a report published by the cross party Public Accounts Committee criticised the DfE’s (Department for Education) funding of the Academies programme. It claimed that over a two-year period the department had overspent on its budget by more than £1 billion. Some of this money, it said, had been taken from funds intended for underperforming schools. It described the expectation that Academies would get more funding than similar schools in their areas as a ‘perverse incentive for schools to convert.’

A PDF of the Public Accounts Committee 41st Report - Department for Education: Managing the Expansion of the Academies Programme can be downloaded here.