On Monday 1 June, the Academy orders for the three Lewisham Prendergast schools were rescinded.
This is a huge, and well deserved victory for the campaign.
Over the past few months teachers' and support staff unions, parents and students have campaigned tirelessly to oppose the academisation of the three schools using strikes, demonstrations, meetings and legal challenges. Strikes planned for 3 and 4 June have been withdrawn.
Teachers’ union, NUT, made sure it was prepared in advance, and did not allow time between governors announcements and strike days which could have demobilised members.
Instead, the union was organised on the ground to hear about threats of academisation early and able to ballot members and organise a strike on 12 Febuary to coincide with the day governors of the Prendergast Federation met to decide whether to press on with academisation plans.
Other teachers’ unions and support staff unions balloted soon after to join the strikes.
On every strike day the unions organised lively picket lines and demonstrations targetting the Leathersellers’ headquarters.
The NUT consistently involved parents, students and the wider community in the campaign, including with several marches on routes which included the school sites. They demanded that the schools run a parental ballot and forced the debate into the public.
A legal challenge from a parent caused the federation to rescinded the academy order for one of the schools (Hillyfields). The legal challenge was upheld because the staff governor at the school didn’t vote for academisation. The federation, however continued to push on with its plans to academise the other two schools, Vale and Ladywell Fields, despite staff governors at those schools voting against academisation, until the announcement this Monday.
On Thursday 14th May, around 200 people attended a debate between David Sheppard, Executive Head of the Prendergast School Federation, and Martin Powell-Davies, Secretary of Lewisham NUT over the proposed academisation of the three Prendergast schools. Despite the debating society atmosphere and the fact that speakers from the floor were only supposed to ask questions it was clear that the vast majority of those who spoke were against the academies.
The only obvious exception was some members of Senior Leadership from a near by academy, Haberdashers. Sheppard clearly stumbled when challenged on his refusal to hold a ballot of the parents at the schools, limply replying “well UKIP are in favour of referendums so...”
This may not be the final word on academy plans at the schools. The Department for Education will want to find a way for the Predergast schools to start the academy process over again.
In a post on the Stop Academies in Lewisham blog campaigners vowed to continue until the governers of all three schools withdraw their academy plans altogether.
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