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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 March 2010

Battling against school academies in Hastings

Plans to merge Filsham Valley school in Hastings with neighbouring Grove School, and to transform them into 'Academy West', with Hillcrest school becoming Academy East, received a blow recently with action by teachers and students.

Jack Poole

Originally the plan to create a federation of the three schools was proposed to staff and parents to avoid the schools becoming an academy. However, in a headlong rush to establish academies the plans have been pushed through and will be realised in 2011.

This was met with anger from teachers, students and parents. Sheila Dooley, secretary of Hastings and District NUT teachers' union said: "Members are furious at the way the county council has consistently ignored the views of parents, staff, governors and pupils during the so-called consultation period."

NUT members went on strike against the academy plans on 10 March, while other union members refused to cover their lessons. The teachers are also concerned that they have not received guarantees against job losses and changes to their terms and conditions after the move to academy status.

Shockingly the academy plans are sponsored by BT alongside two public bodies, East Sussex county council and Brighton University, which has tried to cut nursery services and adult education courses.

In response to the teachers' strike over 600 students at Filsham Valley between the ages of 11-15 decided they would also protest against the academy plans. Last year they organised their own ballot on the academy proposal with 89% voting against!

They organised a group on Facebook and called for a walkout to take place the following day. The walkout ended when police officers rounded up the students they could catch and escorted them home or back to school after recording their names and details.

One student said half the school walked out in protest against the academy, saying "when they [the teachers] strike, we strike too".

Another explained: "We walked out because we don't want the academy to happen, everyone's education is going to get ruined by it."

One group described what happened when they left school. "We walked out after first break. I thought a lot of the students were just going home but they went onto the field and started chanting 'we won't be moved'! I think the police coming onto school grounds was ridiculous, why get the police involved? It's just like truancy!"

Recently, at Sussex University in neighbouring Brighton, riot police attacked a student demonstration against cuts on campus with dogs, sticks and pepper spray.

In light of this Socialist Students members from Brighton University and Sussex went to Filsham Valley and distributed leaflets expressing solidarity with the students and teachers fighting against academies which were very well received.

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In The Socialist 24 March 2010:

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