Come to this meeting on Thursday 25th May 2023 at 19:00-21:00 at Myatt Garden Primary School, Rokeby Road, London SE4 1DF to find out.
At this meeting, Lewisham NEU officers and members will explain why they oppose academisation. Members from Prendergast will explain why they have taken the difficult decision to take strike action against this. There will be plenty of time for questions and contributions from the floor.
Letter to Leathersellers’ Federation parents & carers on the upcoming industrial action from NEU members:
National Education Union members in the Leathersellers’ Federation have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action against the proposal of the Governing Board to form a Multi Academy Trust from September 2023. The reason we were balloted at this time is because the governors are meeting on May 3rd to decide whether to go through with becoming a Multi-Academy Trust: the dates are not arbitrary.
o Context on the strike ballot
The YES vote was over 95% across the Federation’s three schools on an 81% turnout. Our
members – the teachers and support staff of these schools – are resolute that they do not want a MAT to be formed and want to stay within the Local Authority Family of Schools. It is critical for parents to be aware that our support staff colleagues have also balloted and it is looking increasingly likely that they will be joining our industrial action shortly.
The announcement for NEU industrial action came on the final day of the six week consultation during which the NEU reps and Governors met multiple times throughout. The Governing body knew precisely what was at stake. However, they have chosen not to make reasonable adjustments within that time frame which has left teachers with no option but to take industrial action. We have repeatedly put our points across many times: these strike dates were a last resort.
o The impact of the ballot
We hoped the ballot result would encourage the Governing Board to recognise that their proposal does not have the support of the school communities, and that it is an unnecessary distraction at a time of year when our members want to be focussing on supporting students, many of whom are about to sit public exams. We were told by governors that Spring Term was chosen for the MAT consultation as it would be the least disruptive time in the academic year. The Governing Body decided the timing of the consultation in the knowledge that any strike action (which they themselves anticipated) could impact on the student examination period. Teachers at LSFed schools are 100% committed to supporting our students through their exams. There will be dispensation for any members needed for practical exams. In response to being quoted by the Governing body in its communications to staff and parents, Dr Mary Bousted (General Secretary of NEU) responded: “I said that I thought members would not take national strike action during the exam period. The situation is different if there is a different local timescale for forced academisation. They are deliberately mixing up two disputes.”
o ACAS mediation
On Thursday 20th April 2023, we were invited to negotiate with the Governing body. We
welcomed these ACAS mediated talks which lasted 7 hours. Our position was made clear from the onset and was based on the aforementioned vote. We showed flexibility and were prepared to compromise by suggesting a meaningful delay in which the MAT proposal could be properly explored and alternatives suggested. However, the Governors did not offer flexibility in their suggestions – in fact their proposals were insubstantial and did not in any way reflect our members’ will. Had the Governors suspended their proposal, we would have willingly suspended our strike action. However, we now have no option but to strike.
Industrial action is not a decision that we have taken lightly. We do not believe that conversion to a MAT is in our students’ best interests and will continue to oppose this proposal. The NEU staff have requested to put out a statement similar to this on ParentMail, but have as yet not received a response.
Prendergast Governing Board recently released some of the confidential minutes from meetings that discussed the proposed academisation. They redacted key information they didn’t want you to see. Thankfully, the NEU has been passed the original uncensored documents and can reveal some interesting details.
Telling porkies on pay?
The Governing Board recently have written to staff and parents claiming they will guarantee pay and conditions for staff after the Multi Academy Trust is formed. It is unsurprising then that they wanted to hide the fact that there have already been discussions on the Governing Board, in April 2022, about changing the pay policy. We quote the redacted section in full for clarity (our emphasis):
“Update from Due Diligence Working Party Chair & Paper from DHR 6.1 The Chair updated on the recent meeting to explore HR considerations. A potential change relates to moving away from the LA Model Policy, and adopting a Federation Policy giving more flexibility on adopting certain aspects of STPCD [School Teachers Pay & Conditions Document], although this is not necessarily tied to academisation. A proposal would be brought on this update to the Pay Policy, independent of the consultation on academisation.”
This is no shock. Ultimately, this is how academies save money, by cutting wage costs, and it’s why they want financial autonomy. Should we take their word for it that this won’t resurface as an idea once the MAT is formed?
David Sheppard is back!
David Sheppard, the Executive Headteacher in 2015 who tried and failed to privatise Prendergast, is named as one of the 9 Trustees of the new Charitable Incorporated Organisation related to the proposed MAT. This is the same David Sheppard who deliberately withheld and concealed key information during that consultation. That’s not just us saying that, this is what a first tier tribunal ruled: “48 i a) We are satisfied that further information was held that was in scope and was not disclosed to the Commissioner, this now forms part of the closed bundle”
For a project we are being asked to place a lot of TRUST in, is he really the right person to be making key decisions about your child’s future?
How local is local?
The Governing Board have made much of this being a ‘local’ MAT, in contrast to bigger chains. We have already explained that academies can be ‘rebrokered’ and small MATS swallowed by bigger ones but the minutes even raise a question about their definition of local.
The minutes showed that some of the first substantive discussions with a school about joining a future MAT, were not had with one of Prendergast’s feeder schools, or even a Lewisham school, but with a primary school in Southwark. They have also already recruited a senior education official in Lambeth borough to the CIO Board of Trustees, who will have extensive links in that borough too. It begs the question, how local is local?
A wonderful irony in all of this is that the Prendergast Governing Board have employed Communitas PR company in Brighton to help them sell the argument for privatisation (at a time when school budgets are squeezed, could this considerable sum of money not be spent on better things?!) Communitas developed ‘8 Truths’ to manage the message in consultation but this is the real truth and it doesn’t cost a penny.
An urgent message from the parent-led Protect Prendergast Campaign:
With just 2 days of the consultation left we’ve got a job for you…make your voice heard!
If you think the risks of LSFed becoming a MAT outweigh its proposed opportunities, submit text from the next slide into the consultation form to send the LSFed governing board a clear message:
“I stand by the brilliant learning support staff and teachers. I pledge my commitment to equality of opportunity for all. I demand a say in the future of our community of schools. I vote NO to LSFed Prendergast Schools MAT! For collaboration and governance: find another way. Lewisham Schools; Stronger Together!”
This campaign started with a petition demanding a vote on the proposed academisation of LSFed Prendergast schools. Over 1000 have signed so far! The board of governors are denying this democratic right. Make them listen!
Thank you for your support so far! Keep sharing, spread the word and make our voices heard! Thank you!
Submit your response to the consultation now and tell the governors we say #handsoffprendergast
Don’t Privatise Prendergast – join us on a March and Demonstration at 11am on Saturday 22nd April 2023.
Assemble at 11am at Loampit Vale next to Prendergast Vale, marching to Hillyfields via Prendergast Ladywell. Bring homemade placards and noisemakers, wear your Hulk costumes and practise your chanting.