Campaigners oppose plans to convert Chadwell Heath primary school as strike looms

Parents and staff are opposed to the Diocese of Brentwood taking over St Bede's Primary School as pa

Parents and staff are opposed to the Diocese of Brentwood taking over St Bede's Primary School as part of The Good Shepherd Trust. Picture: Andrew Parsons - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Parents and staff at a Chadwell Heath Catholic primary school are opposing plans to convert it to an academy as a strike is pending following a public meeting.

The Good Shepherd Trust, which is controlled by the Diocese of Brentwood, plans to convert St Bede's Catholic Primary School and Nursery in Canon Avenue, to join the seven schools that are already part of its academy across Barking, Dagenham and Redbridge.

The official consultation process is only starting this week but already campaigners have voiced their opposition at the Keep St Bede's in Public Hands meeting which took place on Friday, February 21.

Caroline, a parent and former pupil at St Bede's said she thinks the decision is being rushed through.

She told the Recorder: "We don't have enough time to gather questions about how stable the trust is and I feel like our concerns are being dismissed and pushed aside."

National Education Union (NEU) staff at St Bede's have also threatened to go on strike on Thursday, February 27 to oppose the academisation plans.

Representatives from the Good Shepherd Trust said the process has followed the letter of the law and that threats of forced academisation aren't accurate.

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Parents first attended a meeting with governors held by the trust at St Bede's on February 6 and once they receive the official consultation letters this week they have until March 27 to give their feedback before the decision is made by the school's governors.

Father Andrew Headon, a trustee at Good Shepherd said: "It is disappointing that the NEU are opposed to academisation and therefore are not prepared to listen to the Good Shepherd Catholic Trust or governors of St Bede's when they outline their vision for the school as part of the trust.

"Strike action has been their aim before consultation and the spreading of misinformation about the trust and, specifically, Catholic multi-academy trusts, and the distinction between these and other MATs.

"We encourage all stakeholders to engage in the process and dialogue."

Councillor Paul Donovan said once more people learn more about what is involved, resistance to the planned academisation will grow.

He said: "It is high time that the Diocese of Brentwood went into listening mode on academisation.

"Opposition seems to be springing up across the local boroughs, once teachers and parents learn the full enormity of what is going on.

"It is no answer for the Diocese to just plough on regardless."

Cllr Elaine Norman, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "We maintain a good relationship with all our schools, including academies. We understand St Bede's staff and the school community are against becoming an academy and we support the school staff and community position.

"We continue to work with the diocese and school's trustees to ensure that staff and parents' views are taken into account."