TEACHERS went on strike yesterday in a bid to stop plans to convert a school into an academy.

Peacehaven Community School (PCS) was forced to shut as members of the National Education Union (NEU) set up a picket line outside the school.

The teachers were protesting against plans to turn the school into an academy, handing over ownership of the school from East Sussex County Council to private company Swale.

Phil Clarke, secretary of the Lewes branch of the NEU, said it wanted the council to stop “behind-the-scenes deals” with Swale.

He said: “Going on strike is something that is never done lightly by school staff.

“The support we are getting from parents shows the community understands privatisation of schools does not raise standards but does remove the the school from any local accountability and control.

“East Sussex County Council needs to stop doing behind-the-scenes deals which give our schools to private chains like Swale and make sure every school in Peacehaven has an elected governing body and those governors should not be pressured to hand over our schools.”

The school’s conversion into an academy, which is due to happen in the next few months, means its admissions policy, hiring of staff, and curriculum will be completely controlled by Swale, not the council.

The company already operates five schools in East Sussex, four of which haven’t been inspected by Ofsted since Swale took control.

The Eastbourne Academy, opened in 2010, received a “Good” rating two years ago after a short inspection.

A spokesman from East Sussex County Council said Swale was “instrumental” in enabling Peacehaven Community School’s progress, having earned a “Good” rating last September.

He said: “A full consultation was completed with staff and stakeholders in 2017 and the school community has been regularly updated on progress.

“During the consultation there was very strong support from parents for the continued involvement of Swale Academies Trust.

“Swale Academies Trust has provided senior leadership at the school since November 2015 and has been instrumental in enabling the school to make good progress.”

Teachers from the school will strike again next Thursday and Friday, joined by staff from Telscombe Cliffs Community Primary and Peacehaven Heights Primary schools.

The NEU is encouraging supporters to rally at 11am on May 1 at Centenary Park, Piddinghoe Avenue.