Littlegreen School academy conversion row: Staff balloted over 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

Staff at the Littlegreen School in Compton are being balloted for strike action over the threat to jobs and terms and conditions.

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’.

Parents have led a campaign against the school’s move to an academy, believing that the conversion will cause disruption for the boys, who are particularly sensitive to change.

The National Education Union says it pressed consultants appointed by the Solent Academies Trust for a firm commitment there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of a planned staff ‘review’ after the transfer.

James Ellis, NEU regional officer, said: “The trust have said they will impose a new leadership team in the school which our members simply don’t want. It’s completely illogical, the current headteacher only took over a month before the poor Ofsted inspection which led to the academy order and is now making good progress.

“Therefore, we are demanding that West Sussex County Council, as the existing employer, provides an effective guarantee that there will be no redundancies and the existing structure will be left intact.”

He added: “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 has failed to give us the reassurances over jobs and conditions which our members have demanded. After a resounding mandate from our members in an indicative vote, we will now proceed to a formal ballot.”

As well as commitments over the staffing structure the union is demanding an ongoing commitment to a nationally agreed pay and conditions framework for teachers and a formal agreement which allows trade unions to consult over any future changes, both of which it says the trust is refusing to agree to.

Parent campaigner, Hayley Rose said: “Littlegreen School should remain under the local authority and not become part of a MAT (Multi-Academy Trust) business. It is a small unique school which is progressing well under its current leadership. Our boys do not need to endure unnecessary change. I am delighted that staff are standing up to this unwanted academisation by taking industrial action.”

Mr Ellis added: “I have written to the Interim Executive Board of the School to demand that they urgently request that the Regional Schools Commissioner revokes the academy order, as has happened in 29 other schools in the same position, or at least requests a full inspection at the school. Our members terms and conditions are best protected by remaining a local authority maintained special school. The school community and staff are united – they do not want the school to become an academy.”

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.”

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