TEACHERS at Darwen Vale High School walked out on strike yesterday over plans to convert it into an academy.
And in scenes reminiscent of those outside the school three years ago, furious teachers and parents formed a picket line along the roadside.
Passing drivers beeped their horns as they went past the Blackburn Road school, where members of the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers held banners with messages including ‘Darwen Vale must remain Darwen Vale’, ‘Support Our School’ and ‘No Aldridge Academy Here’.
The strikes have been prompted by the Department for Education’s decision to make the school an academy after an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report last year, despite improving GCSE results and a positive follow-up inspection report.
Staff and teachers have also voiced concerns at the DfE’s preference of the Aldridge Foundation as sponsor, which already runs the town’s other high schools, Darwen Academy and Darwen Enterprise Studio. Claire Ward, regional representative for NASUWT and a teacher at Darwen Vale, said there were 40 people on the picket line at its peak.
She said: “We got lots of support, especially from people driving past who beeped their horns and gave us the thumbs-up.
“I think we have made our point, but we won’t know until we get a response.
“And if it comes back that the DfE is continuing to push through its academisation plans and forcing the school to join the Aldridge Foundation, we may well seek further industrial action.”
In 2011, staff at the school went on strike over claims the management had failed to back up disciplinary actions against unruly pupils, which led to then-headteacher Hilary Torpey’s resignation.
In a letter to parents, headteacher Fiona Jack, who took the reins in January 2012, said: “I have strived to remain neutral throughout the discussions and consultations around academy conversion and potential sponsor that have dominated recent months in order to focus on what matters most, leading this school forward and putting pupils first.
“It has been an extremely difficult period for everyone.
“We expect to have a decision from the education minister sometime next week.
“Whatever the outcome, my aim will be to keep us moving forward and to maintain the distinct and special identity of Darwen Vale High School.”