Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Industrial Action Sparks Clash of Heads and Teachers: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Industrial Action Sparks Clash of Heads and Teachers: News

Article excerpt

Unions issue strike notices in response to management threats.

When the NUT announced its joint campaign of industrial action with the NASUWT, the union's deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney insisted: "We don't want there to be conflict with heads."

But now, a month after the protest over teachers' working conditions, pay and pensions started, evidence has emerged of serious tension between school leaders and teachers. In one school, Stratford School Academy in East London, the head's threat to dock the pay of teachers taking part by 15 per cent has already led to strike action.

According to John Dixon, head of the NUT's membership department, the union has issued about five more strike notices as a result of heads threatening to discipline teachers taking action. A senior figure in one of the headteacher unions said evidence suggested that about one in 10 schools was experiencing significant internal strife.

The action has seen 25 instructions issued to NUT and NASUWT members, on issues including appraisals, lesson observations and attendance at meetings. Under the action, which the unions insist is "pupil, parent and public friendly", teachers are also instructed not to submit lesson plans to senior management, not to send emails outside of their directed working hours and not to cooperate with practice inspections.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that while many schools had been unaffected, some had reported major problems arising from the action.

"In schools where there has been an extremely strict interpretation of the action, it is causing some disruption and is making it difficult for heads to run things as they want to," he said. "What we want to know is: what would lead to a cessation of the action? It is not clear what (the unions) want to achieve. We will be meeting with the secretary of state and asking what he is doing to resolve the situation."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said the impact of the action on schools was "patchy". "We are seeing in a few schools teachers in middle leader roles who are refusing to take part in the observation of colleagues and not getting involved in their mentoring and development programmes," he said. "Technically, of course, they can do that, but it's a shame to see. …

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