NUT and UNISON unite to strike over Downhills ‘forced academy’ threat

by - 19th June 2012, 7.31 BST

NUT and UNISON members are taking joint strike action for the first time at the Downhills School in north London, which is threatened with takeover by a private education charity founded by a leading Tory party financier and peer.

(Pictured: Downhills parents and pupils occupy carpet store owned by Lord Harris. May 2012)

As part of the day of action, staff, parents and children will gather at the Department for Education offices to hand in a giant memo to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, inviting him to visit the school.

NUT members at Downhills School are taking joint strike action with Unison members over the proposal by the DfE to force the school to become a sponsored academy. The strike follows a successful day of action by the NUT last month.

Downhills is currently being managed by an Interim Executive Board, which was installed by Michael Gove after the previous governors refused to accept academy status and were dismissed by the Department for Education.

Two senior figures connected to the Harris Foundation – including its chief executive, Daniel Moynihan – currently sit on the consultative board which is expected to recommend later this month which organisation secures the bid to run the school from next term. (Image courtesy of Anti Academies Alliance)

The strike follows a lengthy campaign involving unions, the local community and local MP David Lammy to keep Downhills as a local authority maintained school.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said: “This is another example of the Education Secretary forcing his will and vision for education upon communities who do not want to see their schools handed over to unaccountable sponsors.

“This has nothing whatsoever to do with standards but everything to do with the break up of our education system.

“The free schools and academies programme is a costly experiment which is neither wanted nor needed.”

The Harris Federation currently runs 13 schools and says it has plans to take over a further five schools in London by September 2013.

UNISON general secretary sent a message of support to the strikers. Speaking at the union’s annual conference, he said: “You are making a brave stand, taking action alongside teachers and parents to oppose your school being bullied into becoming an academy.”

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