FRESH strike action, which saw hundreds of pupils miss lessons at a South Tyneside school, left children, parents and staff in “limbo land,” it was claimed today.
Dozens of teachers again took industrial action at St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn yesterday, in protest at planned redundancies and longer working hours.
In what was the third day of strike action by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NAS/UWT), about 300 pupils were forced to stay at home.
Union members again staged a picket outside the school, in Mill Lane, despite hopes last week that the dispute could be resolved through ongoing talks between the unions and school management.
Terence Carney, chairman of governors, who said that no further talks were planned in the immediate future, said: “The latest action is unsatisfactory, because it leaves pupils, parents and staff in limbo land, creating practical problems for all concerned.
“The simple truth is that school management were not directly informed about yesterday’s action, but the union seems to be be carrying out strike action in accordance with a decision taken some weeks ago.
“We had to work on the presumption that the action was taking place and advise the parents of some 300 pupils in Years 10 and 12 to keep their children at home, which is not satisfactory.”
Mr Carney said that no further talks have been arranged with the unions.
But even with the long summer school holiday fast approaching, Mr Carney added: “This is a situation which must be resolved, certainly before September.”
Planned strike action on June 19 was cancelled after union officials persuaded members to pause for thought.
This sparked fresh hopes the dispute could be resolved, but a series of planned days of action continued yesterday, with NUT and NAS/UWT members forming a picket outside the school.
Union leaders say teachers’ main concerns are centred on increased workloads, after they were asked to teach two extra lessons a fortnight, which would require more preparation.
Staff say they have not had the necessary assurances that their workloads in other curriculum areas will be reduced to compensate for the changes.
NUT regional officer Amy Hunt said: “There were dozens of teachers involved in yesterday’s action and we had good support on the picket line.
“We have to give the school a week’s notice of any action and this we did, as required by law.
“Staff have been very reluctant to take strike action, as we understand the impact this has on pupils and parents, but we feel the school’s expectations on workload are not in the best interests of students, the school or the wider community.
“But the NUT and NAS/UWT share Terence Carney’s desire to reach a swift resolution and we have made ourselves available for meetings.”
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