Teachers strike against Dagenham schools merger

Fourteen Dagenham teachers are striking today in protest over proposals to merge their community school with a faith school.

The teachers at Village Infants School are against plans by Barking and Dagenham Council to turn Village Infants and William Ford C of E Junior School, both in Ford Road, into a voluntary aided C of E primary school.

Village Infants is closed today as the staff picket outside the school.

The National Union of Teachers members, along with many parents, fear children who are not from faith backgrounds could be turned away in favour of church going youngsters.

There are also concerns that the two well performing schools will suffer from the merge. In addition a number of teachers are not happy that they will have to change employer.

Councillors are due to decide whether or not the amalgamation will go ahead at a council cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening.

One of the picketers, teacher Jan Byron, 55, said: “I have always lived in the borough and have been a teaching at Village Infants for 11 years. When I joined I wanted work for the local authority and for a community school, and do not think it’s right that my employer is being changed.”

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She added: “The council are keen to turn infant and junior schools into primary schools, but you can’t have a one size fits all approach. It’s fine if it’s two community schools for example, but that isn’t the case here.”

Ms Byron said she was also worried that church going children from other areas could get preference over children from the local community who do not have a Church of England background.

The present governing body at William Ford Junior School, has said this will not happen. But Village Infant teachers fear they could change their minds in the future.

The council and William Ford Junior head, Duncan Ramsey, say a merger will mean the schools have a more consistent approach to teaching and a more unified vision. The authority also believe a combined budget would be more efficient.

What are the differences between community schools and voluntary aided schools?

A community school is run by the local authority, which:

•employs the staff

•owns the land and buildings

•decides which ‘admissions criteria’ to use (these are used to allocate places if the school has more applicants than places)

Voluntary-aided schools are mainly religious or ‘faith’ schools, although anyone can apply for a place. As with foundation schools, the governing body:

•employs the staff

•sets the admissions criteria

School buildings and land are normally owned by a charitable foundation, often a religious organisation. The governing body contributes to building and maintenance costs.