Brent school will close for another five days due to strikes over ‘draconian’ orders to turn it into an academy

A north London primary school will close for a further five days over the next two weeks after staff agreed to take strike action against government plans to turn it into an academy. The decision came after the school was rated ‘inadequate’ by the education watchdog, but staff, parents and local politicians are fighting what they see as a ‘draconian’ measure.

A recent Ofsted report highlighted a ‘significant deterioration’ at Byron Court in Wembley after its rating plummeted from ‘outstanding’ in 2012 to ‘inadequate’ following inspections on November 28 and 29 last year. This prompted an automatic response from the Department for Education (DfE), with the school forced to come under the control of an academy, Harris Trust, to tackle the problems.

Following a number of protests outside the school – attended by staff, parents, students and politicians – staff who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) have now chosen to strike in an attempt to halt the process. already implemented in September this year.

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Byron Court Primary School was rated ‘inadequate’ following an Ofsted inspection last year(Image: Google Maps)

After protesting outside the school last week (May 17), the union has announced a further five days of strike action – meaning the school will be forced to close on those days. The strikes will take place tomorrow (May 21) and Wednesday (May 22), as well as from June 4 to June 6.

A statement from the NEU called the Ofsted inspection ‘intimidating’ and claimed staff were ‘afraid for their mental health and their future’. It added: “Many of these long-serving staff served the school community during the pandemic and face uncertainty about their jobs, pay and conditions as they face a takeover by the hostile Harris multi-academy trust. ”

Brent secretary at the NEU, Jenny Cooper, said: “We will not stop this fight anytime soon because there is too much at stake here and we know we have the support of the community. Gillian Keegan (Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for Education) knows what she can do: order a re-inspection and pause the academy order; this could resolve our dispute.”

If the DfE order goes ahead, the school will come under the control of Harris Multi-Academy Trust(Image: Guillermo Lloret Farina)

The strike action is likely to cause significant disruption to students and parents, especially as it coincides with SAT exams for students in year six. The NEU has noted that this is specifically aimed at the DfE and not Brent Council – which has publicly backed calls for the academisation process to be halted and the school to be re-inspected after ‘extensive support’ has been provided to ensure that the problems have been addressed.