Teachers put latest strike plans on hold

HOPES are rising that an ongoing industrial dispute at a South Tyneside school will soon be resolved.

More than 100 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NAS/UWT) took industrial action at St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn on Tuesday this week.

That followed a walkout by NUT members the previous week,believed to be the first since the Mill Lane school opened more than 50 years ago.

An estimated 800 pupils were forced to take both days off as a result of the action, taken over plans for redundancies and longer working hours.

But a third day of industrial action lined up for Thursday was cancelled after union officials persuaded members to pause for thought.

And now further talks are planned between the unions and the school’s headteacher, Frank O’Neill, next Thursday.

In the meantime, no more walkouts are planned.

Jill McManus, division secretary and equal opportunities officer for South Tyneside’s NUT branch, said there was a more positive feeling that a compromise deal can be struck to prevent any further disruption to pupils’ education.

She said: “We had a meeting with staff on Wednesday, and members agreed that they should postpone the action the following day.

“It was an opportunity to step back and give both sides time to consider where they stand. The members could see the sense in that.”

Ms McManus said the teachers’ main concerns still centred on increased workloads after they were asked to teach two extra lessons a fortnight.

Staff say they have not had the necessary assurances that their workloads in other areas will be reduced to compensate for the change.

She added: “The situation is more hopeful, I have to say. There is no industrial action planned for next week at this stage, and there’s goodwill on both sides going in to the talks.”

The ongoing discussions have been overseen by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

The NUT staff went ahead with last week’s strike action against the advice of their regional office, a decision which Terence Carney, chairman of governors at the school, described as “disappointing and regrettable”.

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