TEACHERS say they have been left with “no choice” but to strike at schools in Peacehaven to prevent them being handed over to an academy.

National Education Union members are “likely” to start industrial action ballots at Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs schools.

The move comes after the governing bodies imposed by East Sussex County Council refused to agree to hold off on academy consultations during the lockdown, the union claims.

The schools’ normal governing bodies were sacked after they decided not to hand the school over to a private academy trust in 2019.

The replacement governing bodies, which have no parent or community members, were written to by the union asking for them to not consult parents and staff while a national lockdown was in place.

The Argus: Phil Clarke, secretary of the Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden district branch of the NEUPhil Clarke, secretary of the Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden district branch of the NEU

The request was rejected and now members of the union have indicated that they support moving to industrial action to prevent the school being handed over.

Phil Clarke, joint NEU branch secretary, said: “This is yet another example of the local people of Peacehaven being treated with contempt by East Sussex County Council.

“The irreversible decision to give the schools away to a private organisation should not be being taken by imposed governors without links to the community in normal times.

“To press ahead with a consultation when parents can’t even meet in person and discuss the merits is inexcusable.

“Our members never strike unless it is a last resort and were very keen to do all they could to avoid a strike when the children’s education is already so disrupted.

“We publicly ask again that the council commit to at least waiting until after the pandemic. If they do we would not proceed with calling strikes during this difficult period.”

Mum Vicky Hawkins said parents have been “let down” by the council.

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She said:“East Sussex County Council have sacked our governors, they have shut our swimming pool, they have stood in the way of consistent leadership at the schools and put the interests of academy chains above those of our children.

“Our town council is against this process, our MP is against this process. We want our county councillors to listen and come out against this process.

“Many parents in Peacehaven like me will be looking very closely at how the current conservative councillors respond and will be voting and encouraging friends and family to vote accordingly if they let us down again.”

However, East Sussex County Council said the pandemic has forced consolations online.

A spokesman said: “The decision to consult on academy conversion is, in this instance, made by the Interim Executive Board (IEB) of the schools.

“A consultation on academy conversion provides the opportunity for the school community and key stakeholders to submit their comments and have their voices heard.

“Due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions, many businesses and public sector organisations have had to adapt their practices.

“In East Sussex a number of schools have successfully held consultations during this time on a range of matters.

“For any consultations held remotely careful consideration is given to how information is provided, how families, staff and other stakeholders can be fully engaged and the range of ways in which responses can be made.

“The IEBs at Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs schools were put in place following concerns that the local authority had about children’s outcomes at the schools and the capacity of the governing boards to secure sufficient improvement. The local authority took this action in accordance with the Schools Causing Concern guidance and the IEBs were approved by the Regional Schools Commissioner.”