Teachers and parents at a primary school rallied together to begin four days of strikes to prevent plans of an academy trust to take over yesterday.

Dozens of protesters including children who attend Waltham Holy Cross School on Quenton Drive, Waltham Abbey, stood outside the school gate with hand-made signs.

The ongoing campaign was set up by the pupil’s parents back in December 2018 to appeal Ofsted’s decision when the school was placed in ‘Special Measures’.

Colin Potter, Chair of Waltham Holy Cross Parents’ Committee, said: “We continue to oppose the takeover of our school by NET Academy Trust since we do not believe this is the best way forward.

“The evidence shows that WHX is making good progress in spite of the uncertainty caused by their potential sponsorship.

“We are concerned about their past record in schools in Reading and Warwickshire and the threat they pose to our staff and children.”

The facility is to be placed under the NET Academies Trust (NETAT) despite over 700 signatures collected by the community to prevent the conversion.

Several parents and staff have expressed the disapproval of the trust being assigned to the school as it is the sixth worst in the country.

Other issues include NETAT proposals of shorter break times and extended school days should they take over the primary school.

Mr Potter added: “Everything we have seen or heard from them illustrates an authoritarian, dictatorial style of management which is alien to our school ethos.

“This is a recipe for disaster and this is why we demand that they withdraw their sponsorship and why we support the staff strikes to revoke the Academy Order.”

The academy trust also denied plans to sell land the school’s estimated £11.6m worth of land to a property investment director.

More than 20 National Education Union (NEU) members voted for a series of strikes against the Academy Order issued by The Secretary of State for Education.

Shaunagh Roberts, the inclusion officer for Waltham Holy Cross Parents Committee, was told not other Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) other than NETAT could take on the school.

“What happens to the next school of the same size put into special measures?,” she said. “Just proves the academy policy is failing.

“The governments policy is simply not working and is infringing on our human rights.

“No relationship should be forced, especially when it is clearly not wanted.”

The mother of two also stated the school has improved dramatically since the new headteacher was appointed.

Her youngest child, who requires extra needs, has always been included in school activities and fulfilled their requirements on a daily basis.

Ms Roberts added: “The school should be allowed to continue progressing without the interference of a trust that is currently dumping schools it has failed.

“This is a ridiculous risk, clearly not in the best interests of the children, staff or parents.”

Several supporters expressed their thoughts via social media following the first strike day, many including the hashtag 'HandsOffWHX'.

Parent Kelly Cross, posted her views via Twitter, saying: “Supporting the national education union picket line at Waltham Holy Cross today, day one of the strikes opposing the forced academisation to the sixth worst trust in the country.”

Waltham Abbey South West, Cllr Dave Plummer, who has supported the parent-led campaign since its inception, was also in attendance.

He said: “Parents and teachers have tried everything in their power to stop their school being handed over to NET Academies Trust, one of the worst rated academy trusts in the country.

“Nobody wants to strike but parents and staff have exhausted all other options.

“This is another example of Conservative Party policy – in this this the Education and Adoption Act 2016 – which has a direct effect on our local community.”

In a previous published article, Jerry Glazier, NEU Essex Branch Secretary, said: “The Union is giving its full backing to members in their determination not to become an academy.

“We fully support the view that continuing significant school improvements should now enable the Secretary of State to remove the academy order.”

A NETAT spokesperson said: “The National Education Union (NEU) made the decision to strike and the Headteacher of the school has made a decision to close the school for the day.”

The Department of Education has been contacted for a comment.

The next round of protests is set to take place from Tuesday, June 24, to Thursday, June 27.

Visit saveourschool.org.uk or @HandsOffWHX for more information.