Sussex: Hands off Peacehaven schools

Bill North, Brighton Socialist Party

Parents in the town of Peacehaven, on the Sussex coast, have relaunched their campaign to save their primary schools from academy privatisation.

Last year, the community campaign won a major victory against the plans of Tory-dominated East Sussex County Council to hand Peacehaven Heights and Telscombe Cliffs schools to an academy trust. Hundreds of parents, children and staff were involved, and the schools’ governors voted to reverse the decision.

Rather than accept the views of local people, the council sacked the governing bodies of both schools and replaced them with an unelected ‘interim executive board’, made up of bureaucrats appointed by the council.

Campaigners have good reason to believe that the schools are – once again – being lined up for privatisation. The local community currently has no say in the running of the schools, major decisions are made without consultation.

Perhaps the most outrageous example was the decision by the Peacehaven Heights board to fill in the school’s swimming pool during the summer holidays. This act of vandalism had the backing of the council, which claimed that the pool was an “undue burden on the school’s finances” – ignoring the fact that the local community raised £100,000 to ensure that the pool could continue to be used.

The main demands of the relaunched campaign, to ensure Peacehaven schools remain accountable to the local community, are:

  • Parents’ forum at each school, so parent voices are heard
  • The process to set up new, normal governing bodies, accountable to the community to begin immediately
  • No irreversible decisions, such as academy conversion, be taken by imposed governors