Teachers at Bedlington Academy in Northumberland strike over school’s management of pupil behaviour

Teachers at a Northumberland school have gone on strike claiming adverse management practises are negatively impacting their health and welfare.

Members of NASUWT – the teachers’ union – took the first of fifteen planned days of strike action on Tuesday over what they call “adverse management practices” at Bedlington Academy.

The union also says that management has failed to put effective measures in place to manage pupil behaviour.

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The school has said it will remain open throughout the strike to ensure disruption to children’s learning in the rum-up to exams is kept to a minimum.

NASUWT has said teachers, who picketed outside the school between 7.30am and 9am on Tuesday morning, face “excessive and unacceptable” workload burden.

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.

NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach

“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.

“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 said the decision to strike was taken as a last resort after the employer failed to address issues.

He said: “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.”

However, the North East Learning Trust (NELT), the academy trust that runs the school, has criticised the strike for causing disruption to pupils following the coronavirus crisis.

Lesley Powell, Chief Executive Officer of the 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.

Bedlington Academy in Northumberland

“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. 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.”

NASUWT have said that further days of strike action are planned for 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31 March and 5, 6, 7 April.

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