Skip to content
Home » Byron Court Primary School Strikes Push Ahead To Save School

Byron Court Primary School Strikes Push Ahead To Save School

More strikes are set to go ahead as part of a protest against a school being forced into an academy.

Byron Court Primary School in North Wembley is still set to join the Harris Federation as an academy after it received the lowest ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating.

A forced academisation order was given by the Department for Education (DfE) in line with government policy – despite an uproar from parents, staff and the Brent National Education Union (NEU).

Several protests have already taken place, and more strike action is set this Friday (June 14), along with June 18, 19, 25, 27 and July 2, 3 and 4.

The NEU has launched a ‘go yellow’ campaign across all Brent schools, in which staff are asked to wear yellow or black as an act of solidarity with striking members at Byron Court.

Yellow and black are the current Byron Court uniform colours and the campaign is launched on the day that Harris Federation is set to consult pupils on a potential new uniform.

Barry Gardiner, the MP for Brent North, delivered a 2,000 strong petition to the DfE office in Westminster on June 5 in support of the protests.

Barry Gardiner is supporting staff and the NEU (Image: ©Louise Haywood-Schiefer/lhschiefer.com/2017)

He said: “It is building pressure because it’s public opprobrium but, within the structure of the statute or within the procedures of the department, it doesn’t actually force them to do anything.”

Mr Gardiner added: “Ultimately, the important thing is not the teachers, it’s not the staff, it’s not the school. It’s the children, it’s their education and the most important thing is to get that right. I believe the teachers are working night and day at the moment to achieve that.”

Huda Al Rukabi, a teacher at the school, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the atmosphere would be ‘very different’ if the academisation order is allowed to proceed and fears the high pressure environment could impact on the mental health of staff.

Ms Al Rukabi said: “The most important thing is the sense of community. A lot of children, when they leave the school, just remember Byron Court for the community – I was a pupil at Byron Court and now I’m a teacher. As an ex-pupil, I want it to go back to a school that has that same sense of community.”

Campaigners outside Byron Court Primary School in March (Image: Save Byron Court)

She added: “I am extremely hopeful. The best thing is not to just sit there silent and passive, but be active. We need to be role models for the children.”

Marisa, 8, a pupil at Byron Court, wants it to remain a community school. She said: “I like it how it is and I don’t understand why Ofsted rated us ‘inadequate’.”

The NEU says that some staff fear for their mental health and their futures if the school becomes an academy.

Many of these staff served the school’s community throughout the pandemic and the union says they face uncertainty over jobs, pay and conditions as they face a takeover by the Harris multi-academy trust.

The school had dropped from an ‘outstanding’ grade in 2012 to its current rating after an inspection by the school watchdog in November last year.

According to the Ofsted report, leadership was “overwhelmed” and it described “inconsistent” responses to bullying incidents.

Inspectors also claimed that incidents of racist language and sexual harassment are “not thoroughly dealt with or followed up”.

Despite protests outside the school and a senior councillor’s letter to the Secretary of State for Schools to “pause the academisation process” – the Department for Education said it will be pressing on with the move.

And in April, Cllr Gwen Grahl, Brent Council’s lead member for children, young people and schools, wrote to Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Schools, saying the school was not given “meaningful opportunity for improvement” after a change in leadership.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Schools to express my concerns about the rapid & forced academisation of Byron Court Primary School, asking for time for improvement & reinspection. pic.twitter.com/Sz2xQD7mrn

— Cllr Gwen Grahl (@CllrGwenGrahl) April 13, 2024 Tanisha Phoenix, 40, is among the parents and campaigners calling for the school to be ‘saved’ from acadamisation.

She said: “We wanted to present our petition officially to the DfE to let them know that there are 2,000 people that have signed it who are opposed to this forced academisation process. […] We can’t be ignored anymore, the community has spoken, they need to listen to us, they can’t keep closing the door and ignoring us.”

She added: “If there are improvements to be made, let the local authority address those and give us the chance to keep the school in council hands.

“The choice is being taken out of our hands and once it becomes an academy it can never go back.

“Academy does not necessarily mean improvement and even if on paper it does, at what cost to our children, our staff, the local community?”

A spokesperson for the Harris Federation told the LDRS: “Following a decision by the Department for Education, we are pleased to welcome Byron Court into the Harris Federation. We look forward to working with the school community to restore the high standards the school has traditionally been known for so that all pupils benefit from an enriching and rewarding education.”

They added: “Our pupils’ personal development is at the forefront of everything we do and we offer a wide-ranging extracurricular programme to complement our high academic standards. Most of our academies inspected by Ofsted are rated as ‘outstanding’ with inspectors commenting on how nurturing our schools are as well as on the highly positive relationships we have with pupils and their families.”