TEACHERS will stage strike action at a Monmouthshire comprehensive school this week in a long-running dispute over their safety and “violent and abusive behaviour”.
Members of the NASUWT Teachers’ Union will take part in a strike tomorrow, September 21, at Caldicot Comprehensive School with another walk out planned for the following Thursday (September 28) and the possibility of more action, including on consecutive days, in October.
The 1,300 pupil school will be closed to all students on the strike days and there is a potential for further action involving members of the National Education Union (NEU) whose own ballot hasn’t yet closed.
The NASUWT said the action is due to a failure to resolve concerns around management of the school and supporting staff in dealing with violence and poor pupil behaviour.
Of the school’s 80 teachers nearly half, 35, are NASUWT members and the union said it has been in negotiations with the school since 2019 in a bid to resolve “ongoing concerns about the management of the school”. It claims the employer is failing to provide appropriate support to staff in dealing with violent and abusive behaviour.
It said the strike ballot showed 85 per cent of members voted to support strike action and 92 per cent supported action short of strike, which includes the refusal to teach pupils who they say pose a risk to staff.
The union’s general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Teachers cannot teach and pupils cannot learn in an environment where there is disruption and violence. Poor pupil behaviour cannot be explained away by attributing it to a teacher’s ability to plan and deliver lessons appropriately, something which parents and the public accept.
“Despite clear assurances to the contrary, Caldicot School has failed in their most basic commitment to support teachers to teach.
“Monmouthshire Council cannot ignore its responsibilities and obligations towards its employees or to the pupils in their care. By choosing to strike, our members are sending a clear message that they will not tolerate threats to the health, safety and well-being of themselves or their pupils. Nor will they accept management’s attempts at intimidation when attempting to stand up for their rights at work.”
In July the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed members of both unions had supported strike action due to concerns over pupil behaviour making the school unsafe for them to work in. Monmouthshire council’s cabinet member for education, Martyn Groucutt, told councillors later that month a council review had found the beaviour of some pupils has put learning at risk.
The revelations followed complaints from some parents during the prolonged period of hot weather in June that pupils weren’t allowed to wear shorts to school and claims that some had been disciplined for doing so, while some boys had worn skirts instead.
Neil Butler, NASUWT’s national official for Wales, said it has seen a “growing trend of violence in schools” since the Covid pandemic and accused Monmouthshire County Coucil of a “lack of oversight” which he said had led to a breakdown in industrial relations at Caldicot.
NASUWT, which in July hadn’t commented on the potential action beyond confirming it had balloted members, said it had “agreed clear actions with the school that would have resolved the dispute” at the time but accused the school’s management of having “failed to uphold this agreement”. It said has “growing concerns of Trade Union victimisation”.
A Monmouthshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the NASUWT has taken the decision to go ahead with its first indicative day of industrial action at Caldicot School and recognise that this action, so close to the start of term, will cause concerns for parents and learners.
“We have been working closely with both the school leadership and the NASUWT to help them resolve the school based issues that have led to this decision. We will continue this work and to advocate for a swift resolution on behalf of all of the school’s learners.”