Costessey academy vows to stay open through strike – as many Norfolk schools announce closures
As parents across the country wait to discover if their child's headteacher will be forced to turn youngsters away during next week's strike, one Norwich academy is finding creative ways to ensure it stays open.
Ormiston Victory Academy, in Costessey, has announced plans to bring in former armed forces personnel, police and West End performers to help keep pupils in classrooms next Wednesday.
It comes as so far at least 18 Norfolk schools have admitted they will have to close when thousands of teachers, headteachers, teaching assistants and support staff walk out as part of the public sector strikes.
But Ormiston Victory principal Rachel de Souza said she was determined to keep the doors open.
She said the academy had made a promise to parents when they took over the failing Costessey High School to support their children's education. She added: 'We thought the most responsible thing was to do a summer school day with real learning activities that allowed children to continue learning and allowed parents to continue working.'
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Former servicemen, who have worked with the academy in the past, will visit the school to talk to year 10 pupils about team work and leadership.
Other year groups will get involved with a range of activities including a newspaper day.
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Mrs de Souza, a member of the ASCL union which is not striking, said: 'The plans were never intended to be anything other than support for parents and commitment to learning for these children. Any member of staff can go on strike without worry or fear or concern.'
Today (Thursday) Norfolk County Council said it knew of at least 18 schools which had already decided to close next Wednesday on health and safety grounds and expected many more to follow suit.
In a letter to parents, Kerry Jordan, headteacher at Hethersett High School, said too many teachers and support staff had told her they intended to strike and, while some could change their minds before Wednesday, it was unlikely to alter the overall impact on the school.
She said: 'It is, therefore, my firm opinion that I am not able to provide sufficient teaching and support staff to enable your children to be appropriately and safely educated.'
All schools are keen to stress they are not closing in sympathy with the strikes – which is against the law.
Many will not know exactly how many staff members will take action until the day itself since workers are not required to inform their bosses.
It means some schools, like Aylsham High, have written to parents warning of disruption to classes and the possibility of a last minute decision to close.
In a letter Aylsham's chair of governors Sue Platt said: 'Every effort will be made to give notice at the latest by the day before, but in case the decision has to be made on the day itself, we are asking parents to nominate a place of safety, which may be your home, to which your child can go if we have to close.'
Wednesday's strikes are set to affect a wide range of public services but Norfolk County Council said it was working to limit the disruption.
Cliff Jordan, cabinet member for efficiency, said: 'The county council has contingency plans in place to minimise, as far as possible, the effects of strike action on the public. We will do our upmost to limit the effects on front-line services and will try to keep essential services running, wherever possible.'
Information about services affected by the strikes will be on www.norfolk.gov.uk nearer the time.