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Pupils lose 300,000 hours in London’s ‘most strike-hit schools’

Teachers on a national teacher’s strike earlier this year  Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Teachers on a national teacher’s strike earlier this year Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Parents at the “most strike-hit” group of schools in London have called for an end to the dispute that has seen children lose more than 300,000 hours of learning.

Pupils at the Prendergast schools in Lewisham will have missed more than three weeks due to a “disproportionate” string of strikes by teachers over plans to turn the schools into an academy trust, campaigners said. Some children at the five schools, which are part of the Leathersellers’ Federation, are only attending school on Mondays and Fridays.

A further week of strikes is planned for after half-term, and teachers this week were balloted on whether to extend the strike into the summer.

Campaigners say the strikes have resulted in 15 days of lost learning — the equivalent of more than 300,000 hours across the 3,000-plus pupils affected.

This is in addition to the five days of national teacher strikes over pay. Parents fear that as well as damaging their children’s education, the dispute will cause irreparable harm to the previously happy school community.

Niru Ratnam, whose son is at Prendergast Ladywell School, said: “This is having a profoundly negative effect on children as well as on a community that is now starting to tear itself apart.”

Frustrated parents have formed an action group to try to bring an end to the dispute between teachers who are members of the National Education Union and the Leathersellers’ Federation. The group, called Back to School — Find a Way Forward, said parents “feel powerless and fear for the adverse impact on their children’s education and mental health coming so soon after Covid closures”.

The governing board of the federation is proposing to form a multi-academy trust, but the NEU say such trusts are driving down teachers’ working conditions and that there is not enough evidence they improve standards.

Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo has tweeted in support of the campaign against academisation, urging “friends in London who don’t want their schools to be run like a private enterprise” to sign a petition against the plans. Mr Ratnam said that at the start of the walkouts many parents backed the strikes, but support has waned as the dispute has been going on for so long.

He said: “The kids are not getting an education. They are being used as cannon fodder. The creeping realisation is setting in that this could go on forever. We have had week after week of three-day strikes.”

He added: “I know of a lot of parents who have to deal with their bosses who are baffled by these strikes — they understood the national strikes but don’t know why these are continuing. It must be the most strike-hit school in London.”

A NEU spokeswoman said: “Our members want this dispute resolved as soon as possible.”

She said the NEU’s offer to suspend strike action for nine months while a working party sought alternatives to academisation was rejected.

It comes as teachers at St Augustine’s Priory School, an independent Catholic girls’ school in Ealing, this week started eight days of strike action in a dispute over pensions.