Teachers have walked out of three Lewisham schools today in the first of nine planned strike days, as leaders were set to enter peace talks with unions.

Staff at the Prendergast schools – also known as the Leathersellers’ Federation – announced the nine strike days in protest at plans to turn the schools into a multi-academy trust (MAT).

After governors launched a consultation over the plan, more than 1,200 people signed a petition calling for parents and teachers to be given a vote instead, but governors refused and proceeded with the consultation.

Just 6% of responses were in favour, compared to 64% against, but governors voted to academise anyway, prompting the walk-outs.

Governors were due to attend talks today with the National Education Union (NEU), to discuss setting up a “working group” to investigate “alternatives to academisation”.

But in return, school bosses want a guarantee that no future strikes would be called over the MAT plan.

“The federation has asked for a commitment from the unions not to resume industrial action, regardless of the outcome of the joint working party,” said chair of governors Andy Rothery.

That, said NEU rep James Kerr, is something the union will not agree to.

“As a union, we don’t sign no-strike pledges,” he said.

“It would be the equivalent of us saying to the federation that we don’t want them to make any more decisions about this issue.

“Industrial action is obviously a last resort, but it’s an important tool for any trade union to have at its disposal. So we wouldn’t sign a no-strike pledge.”

The NEU said it represents the “vast majority” of teachers at the schools and they have voted 99% against academisation.

“Our membership within the Leathersellers’ Federation has grown quite substantially within the last two months,” Mr Kerr said.

Mr Rothery told the News Shopper: “In return for pausing the current process, committing to the working party and agreeing to present any viable alternatives to the governing board, we have asked representatives to consider an agreement not to take further industrial action on this issue.

“We are very concerned that without this commitment there is a risk that we end up in the same situation we are now in another academic year, repeating the disruption our students and families currently face.”

Mr Kerr said the ultimate decision would be made by members.