Members of the National Education Union (NEU) at Sywell Primary School in Northamptonshire are set to strike on Tuesday 26 and Thursday 28 January over a long-running dispute against the academisation of their school. NEU member Sonia Byrne spoke to Pat Markey about the dispute.
The first the staff knew about this decision was from a leak in the local pub. An ex-governor had told another ex-governor that the Governing Body had made this decision in December 2019. The news spread like wildfire and therefore the governors had to announce it to the community in January 2020. Bearing in mind that at the announcement of the Head Teacher's resignation, in October 2019, the staff asked the Chair of Governors whether becoming an academy was on the table and he had emphatically stated no, the staff and parents were flummoxed.
After the governors announced this devastating news, the staff wanted to act collectively. People who were not in a union joined the NEU, as it is the biggest education union. Other staff, who were already in a union, wanted to act as a collective as well and so switched to the NEU. In the end I doubled the number of union members in the school. At the very beginning we voted to work as a group to fight the academisation, and we have been doing so ever since.
As soon as the spread of Covid-19 was announced and the country went into lockdown, the staff and parent campaigns were put on hold. No such decision was taken by the Governing Body. They carried on regardless in spite of the pandemic. This has put an added stress onto the staff of the school.
The staff are keen to keep an emergency childcare scenario for keyworker parents. The children come first. All activities will be Covid secure.
We have had regular meetings and have talked and supported each other during this time. I started a Facebook page and a Twitter account on behalf of the members. I also started the petition, which eventually received 850+ signatures.
Governing Bodies are run by lay people who seem to be able to make decisions without any comeback. This situation is untenable. Governing Bodies should come under intense scrutiny. But no-one is interested in decisions they make via the back door!
As a Governing Body you are meant to adhere to the seven Nolan principles. I do not think that this Governing Body have been honest, transparent, or accountable for their actions. I feel that the decisions have been made without following protocol, and that meetings have been held in secret for which there are no minutes.
For a Governing Body, everything should be available to be viewed by the community, so that it is deemed above board. They are making decisions on behalf of the taxpayers of this country and we have a right to know what is happening to our money.
• Pat Markey is secretary of the Northampton District NEU, interviewing here in a personal capacity