Castle School to close as staff strike in dispute over 'unmanageable workload'

July 08 2019
Castle School to close as staff strike in dispute over 'unmanageable workload'

CASTLE School is set to close for a staff strike in a protest over “workload, safety and wellbeing”.

Head teacher Will Roberts said the school had “little choice” but to close to pupils tomorrow as 88 members of staff, mainly teachers, were NEU members.

Members of the National Education Union will picket the school gates between 8am and 9am, and say further strike action could take place next week and in September.

In an open letter published on the South Gloucestershire Fair Funding For All Schools Facebook page, NEU members said: “We are committed and experienced members of staff who only want the best for our students and the school.

Working in education is a difficult job which we are prepared to take on as long as we are working in a safe and supportive working environment.

We are taking industrial action because we feel that our views are not being listened to and that we have been left with no other choice.

Over the last two years, we have raised concerns about behaviour getting out of control, workload increasing with no positive impact on students learning and the lack of regard for staff wellbeing. Some progress had been made in some areas but nowhere near enough to keep staff happy and secure.

The current dispute centres around unmanageable workload for staff. This impacts on everything that gets done in school. Tired and overworked staff have less time for students in need, less time to plan the best lessons, less time to support other tired and overworked colleagues and next to no time to enrich students’ learning by organising trips and so on. We appreciate that cuts to funding have played a part but firmly believe that senior leadership have not taken our concerns seriously enough.

Year in, year out, CSET has made cuts to all areas of staffing within the school. Middle managers posts have been stripped away, assistant year heads have disappeared and the number of support staff for pupils with special educational needs has halved. This has hugely increased workload and staff are just expected to absorb the changes and yet maintain the existing high standards. Workload is set to increase again but teachers are already working to capacity.”

In a letter sent to parents, Mr Roberts said the closure would be “highly inconvenient to many parents who will now need to make arrangements for supervision” and advised any parents who needed their children to be “supported” in school on the day to contact the school.

Mr Roberts said: “We are very frustrated that the NEU has decided to take strike action. The union had not raised any concerns with us formally or informally in the weeks prior to balloting. We subsequently met to discuss a list of requests made by the union, all of which we agreed in an attempt to resolve the dispute. The union then presented further requests which were unrelated to the original ones. We met (on July 3) to discuss these, with many requests having been agreed, and some which we could not agree as we were worried that agreeing to them would be detrimental to students. We requested that the union postpone action in order to allow for further discussions, but they informed us last night that they are refusing to do so.

We recognise that there are national issues relating to teacher workload, which affect teachers across the country. Much of this relates to the intensity of term-time working patterns, although this is of course balanced by generous holiday arrangements. The current workload settlement for staff at The Castle is already more favourable than for colleagues at many other schools, but we recognise the genuine concerns about workload, which is why we have been as flexible as we can possibly be in agreeing to their reasonable requests.”

The next strike days are planned for July action have been announced for Wednesday and Thursday of next week (July 17-18) and September 10, 11 and 12.