THE HEAD teacher of a school where teachers have staged strikes and are refusing to teach individual pupils isn’t currently at work, it has been revealed.
Teachers took part in a third day of strike action at Caldicot School this week and have blamed “adverse” management practices and an alleged failure to “appropriately tackle” violent and abuse behaviour towards staff.
Councillor Martyn Groucutt, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for education, confirmed head teacher Steven Grech’s absence after he was asked to provide an update on the ongoing dispute.
Cllr Groucutt outlined the the latest developments, including confirmation members of one union are refusing to teach some pupils, and then said: “Perhaps I should add that the head teacher is currently not in school.”
The Labour councillor didn’t provide any further explanation of the head’s absence and at the outset of his statement said: “I’m sure members will accept I need to be a little circumspect in the words I use but I will do my best to give as full a picture as I possibly can.”
The strike on Wednesday, October 25 was staged by members of the NEU union and the NASUWT, whose members were taking part in a third strike day since September.
Earlier strike days planned for October had been called off after “positive developments” saw governors agree to introduce a new behaviour policy that would take “full account of the advice of the two teaching unions” and talks led by conciliation service ACAS had taken place.
But Cllr Groucutt said while the dispute had appeared to be heading to a “positive resolution” he said: “Since then the situation has deteriorated.”
That led to this week’s co-ordinated strike action with a second strike planned for November 15.
The councillor also confirmed the refusal of some teachers to teach named pupils, with a union producing a blacklist of youngsters teachers are unwilling to have in their classrooms.
He said: “The NASUWT will ballot members about extending the period of their mandate for industrial action and continuing action short of a strike from October 31 this will take the form of refusing to teach specified learners.
“As a local authority this gives us grave cause for concern and we will do all we can to ensure all learners are taught in school. As a local authority we are well aware of our moral and legal duty that all children receive their legal entitlement to education we will work with the school to mitigate any risks and ensure all pupils can be taught.”
A meeting was held between the school and the unions last week and Cllr Grocutt said: “I speak weekly with the chair of governors and his reflection on the meeting with the trade unions last week, I quote him, was ‘awful’. The view of the unions was sufficient progress has not been made.”
He said a “number of work streams” are on-going to try and resolve the dispute and said the council and Gwent’s Education Achievement Service will “provide all necessary support to the school and governing body” and said that is being “developed and enhanced”. He also said the unions and the governing body want the council’s chief officer for education and young people to continue to be involved in the talks.
Cllr Groucutt said: “Things have not progressed in a way I had hoped following apparent move towards reconciliation, it is complex and there are no easy answers.”
Chepstow Mount Pleasant Conservative councillor Paul Pavia, who had asked for an update on the dispute at the council’s October 26 meeting, said: “I was disturbed to read in the media teachers exercising their right to strike had submitted a pupil blacklist to the school. I appreciate the need to listen and support our education workforce but I find this act quite extraordinary and goes against ethical and professional practice.”
He asked if pupil “learning and welfare” would be placed “front and centre” of negotiations and Cllr Groucutt replied he hoped “in any discussions about schools, children are at the very centre of discussions”.
The behaviour policy that had been agreed was due to be phased in and “clear guidance” to be provided to pupils about what is to be expected of them and their behaviour in future.
The Education Achievement Service held a review at the school in July – after teachers had voted in favour of striking – and found more than 70 per cent of pupils did not “fully understand” the school’s policies, feeling that they were unfair and that their opinions weren’t taken into account, contrary to national guidance.