Strike action set to start at Northumberland school

Bedlington Academy.Bedlington Academy.
Bedlington Academy.
Strike action is set to impact a Northumberland school over the next few weeks.

The North East Learning Trust (NELT) has announced a period of strike action by NASWUT union members at Bedlington Academy beginning on Tuesday, March 8.

A total of 15 days’ strike action are planned over the next five weeks.

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The Academy will remain open at all times during the strike with additional support provided by NELT so that disruption to children’s learning is kept to a minimum, particularly in the run- up to exams.

Lesley Powell, chief executive officer of Bedlington Academy sponsor, NELT, said: “I am hugely disappointed that after a prolonged period of disruption to children’s learning due to the Coronavirus pandemic, NASWUT and their members have chosen to take this course of action.

“When we sponsored the school, Bedlington Academy was judged to be ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, since then rapid improvements have been made across the board.

“The children of this community, like all children, deserve an outstanding education and our Trust has a clear track record of turning the fortunes of schools around.

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"We therefore cannot in all conscience suspend policies and procedures that we believe are required to support the education of the young people of this academy.

"Teachers at the Academy work an average 30 hours per week at the direction of the head teacher, which is significantly below their contractual obligations. This provides a degree of flexibility that we know many staff appreciate as they balance their work and personal commitments.

"The Trust believes it is reasonable, therefore, to expect staff to complete some tasks outside of directed hours whilst remaining within the bounds of expectations within school teachers pay and conditions.

“We have used our best endeavours, over the last few months, to avoid this action but regrettably, we are in this position and our attention must now focus on the young people and ensuring the school remains open.”

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NASWUT says the action is being taken over adverse management practices which are negatively impacting on members’ health and welfare.

They say members at the school are facing excessive and unacceptable workload burdens, along with a failure by management to put in place effective measures to manage pupil behaviour.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Excessive and unnecessarily workload-intensive approaches to marking and planning are being foisted on teachers at the school which are seriously hampering their ability to maintain a reasonable work/life balance.

“This is not only undermining their professionalism as teachers, but is impacting on their mental and physical health. It is limiting the time and energy they have available to focus on meeting the needs of pupils, which is counterproductive to the aim of providing a high-quality learning environment for pupils.

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“This is being exacerbated by the failure of the employer to put in place a system for managing pupil behaviour which supports teachers to maintain good order and ensures pupils are able to focus on their learning without undue disruption.

“We are calling on the employer to recognise the seriousness of the issues at the school and to commit to working with us to genuinely and tangibly address the concerns of members.”

Dan Lister, NASUWT National Executive Member for Northumberland, added: “Our members just want the right to dignity at work and to be treated with respect.

“We have done everything possible to avoid taking strike action, but the employer has failed to act to effectively address the workloads and working conditions which are undermining our members’ wellbeing.

“The employer must act to address its duty of care to the teachers at Bedlington and to uphold their right to a healthy working environment.”