Teachers oppose new Dagenham school merger plan

Staff, governors and parents at a Dagenham infant school are opposing plans for a merger with a faith school.

The council has proposed amalgamating Village Infants and William Ford Junior, both in Ford Road, to form a C of E primary.

Eleven out of 14 teachers from the infant school have voted against the plans in a union ballot while some parents voiced their opposition to the Post this week.

Concerns centre on the merger creating a faith-based school, which would alter the selection process and potentially weight it against non-religious children.

Heather Douglas, head of the community infants school who retires in July, also said the ethos of the school could be lost.

She said: “Merging [the schools] could disadvantage Dagenham families because William Ford can give admissions preference to those who attend church. At a time when there is such a demand for primary places this is very worrying.”

Teachers voted against the move in a National Union of Teachers ballot last Thursday. It will go to the union’s action sub-committee and could lead to strike action.

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Dominic Byrne, borough NUT divisional secretary, said: “The teachers and the governors believe that religious affiliation will mean there will be an admissions criteria, disadvantaging local children.

“They are also not happy that they would work at a faith school.”

Parent Shailey Proctor, who has one child at Village Infants and one at William Ford, told the Post: “Our family does not go to church and if I was applying at the new school my child may not get a spot.” Nicola Tilley, 37, parent of a Village Infant child and a dinner lady said: “There’s a risk that families from a religious background but not from the area will get places instead of local families.”

But another parent supported the move. Clement Oluwalana said: “The schools are next to each other so it makes sense.”

If the merger goes ahead the school would become a voluntary aided school, a state-funded school in which a religious trust owns the school buildings.

Stephen Evans, from campaign group the National Secular Society, said: “Community schools give priority to local children while voluntary aided faith schools can prioritise children from families that regularly attend church.”

But Dr Duncan Ramsay, headteacher at William Ford Junior, said it made sense for the schools to have a “single vision”, and added that the new school “would continue to serve the Dagenham community”.

A council spokesman confirmed the merger plans are in the informal consultation stage and said all parents had been consulted.

The formal consultation is likely to begin at the end of May or beginning of June.