TEACHERS and parents have held another strike over plans to convert a primary school to an academy, amid criticism the council "is not listening" to concerns.

Staff, parents and pupils at Peacehaven Heights Primary School took industrial action yesterday against the school being handed over permanently to the STEP academy trust.

In a march through Peacehaven, they waved colourful placards which read "Step away from our school" and "We say no to greed" and banged drums, and were joined by Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Mole, Labour candidate Chris Collier and former chairwoman of governors at the school, Angela Mills.

The Argus: Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP was among those protestingLloyd Russell-Moyle MP was among those protesting

Earlier this year, the Interim Executive Board (IEB), which has run Peacehaven Heights Primary and Telscombe Cliffs Primary since 2019, put forward plans to hold a consultation on academy conversion this autumn.

Previous governing bodies were sacked after they decided not to hand the school over to a private academy trust two years ago.

But campaigners say the IEB has made various decisions without consulting parents, including one to fill the school’s swimming pool with concrete.

It comes after pupils also staged protests campaigning for a permanent headmaster to be appointed, as the school has been led by five different headmasters over the last five years.

Phil Clarke, branch secretary of the National Education Union in East Sussex, said: "In a recent speech by the education secretary Gavin Williamson, East Sussex and STEP were praised for operating a ‘try before you buy’ system where schools could see what it is like to join a private academy trust.

“If this is an example of 'try an academy chain before you buy', there is only one question the community is asking, which is: how do we get a refund?

"East Sussex County Council need to step up and say we have listened, our imposed board will now make way for a normal governing body, accountable to the community, and we will recruit a headteacher for the school.

"We are just asking for these basic necessities to be in place.

"Residents might want to consider why Peacehaven is being treated so differently to other areas by their own county council when they vote today.”

Caroline Gridley, a parent with two children at the school, slammed the county council for "not listening" to teachers.

The Argus: Staff, parents and pupils staged a second protest yesterday over plans to convert the school into an academyStaff, parents and pupils staged a second protest yesterday over plans to convert the school into an academy

She said: “The chairman of the imposed board has never visited the school, the lead member for education at East Sussex Council has never visited the school and yet they make decisions for the school that are clearly not in the interests of our children.

"Concreting over the swimming pool, stopping beach school, and not listening when 69 per cent of our brilliant teachers say they will be looking for other jobs.

"They have shown they cannot be trusted to run the school and they certainly cannot be trusted to make a decision like giving the school to a private academy trust.”

Parents have previously voiced concerns about a "prolonged lack of leadership" impacting on the school environment and their children's education.

The Argus:

East Sussex County Council said the chairwoman of the IEB, who took up the role in November last year, has not visited the school yet because "she has been observing the government guidance and the school’s risk assessment in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic".

The council said the normal expectation is for the IEB chairperson to visit the school once a month.

A spokesman said: "The discussions with the headteacher, senior leaders and staff that would normally take place in those visits have happened remotely under the current chairwoman’s tenure.

"The current chairwoman has also met with the teachers remotely twice, the parents and the deputy headteacher. The chairwoman of the IEB and the acting headteacher speak at least weekly.

"The final decision on academy status will be made by the whole IEB. 

“The IEB was put in place following concerns the local authority had about children’s outcomes at the school and the capacity of the governing board to secure sufficient improvement.

"The local authority took this action in accordance with the Schools Causing Concern guidance and the IEB was approved by the Regional Schools Commissioner.

The Argus:

“Improving outcomes for children at Peacehaven Heights and securing greater stability for the school are paramount to the IEB.

"The IEB has taken the decision that the best way to bring about the rapid improvement needed was to pursue an academy solution. 

"The decision to consult on academy conversion is, in this instance, made by the IEB which has confirmed that, in response to concerns from some parents, the boards will not hold a consultation until all the current Covid-19 lockdown requirements are removed so that everyone is reassured it is a meaningful consultation.

“It has recently been confirmed by the IEB at Peacehaven Heights that the current interim headteacher will remain in post until Easter 2022.”