Teachers are to go on strike at a Hastings secondary school tomorrow (Wednesday, March 28).
The NASUWT teachers’ union says its members are to hold a full-day strike at Ark Helenswood Academy. The school has informed parents is to close its doors to all but Year 11 and Year 13 pupils during the strike.
The union says the strike action is as a result of a dispute over working practices, workload and the "withholding of pay entitlements for teachers at the bottom of the main pay scale" at the Ark Academy Trust school.
NASUWT National Executive Member for East Sussex Nick Trier said: “Despite the best efforts of the NASUWT, the employer has failed to address the factors which are driving up teachers’ workloads and working hours and has failed to ensure that the lowest paid teachers are receiving their statutory entitlements on pay.
“The teachers are all hard-working, dedicated members of staff, but they feel the time has come where they have no choice but to stand up for their right to be treated with fairness and respect at work."
Responding to the strike action, the school's executive principal Yvonne Powell said: "We are disappointed that industrial action was deemed appropriate by the NASUWT, despite efforts by the school to engage in meaningful dialogue and the fact that we thought we had reached agreement with the union on some of the key issues raised.
"We very much value the hard work done by our staff and we have shown a willingness to listen to staff concerns and to respond with reasonable adjustments. It is regrettable that this strike has been declared despite these efforts, and despite the fact that affected staff members have not been given the opportunity to vote on this industrial action at Ark Helenswood.
"Our main concern is, as always, the safety, health and wellbeing of our students. Year 11 to 13 students will be within the busiest period of exam preparation and this strike will have a negative impact on their studies at this crucial time. In order to support them, the school will remain partially open - to Years 11 to 13 only. Year 11 to 13 students will be expected to attend school tomorrow as normal for their full day, in school uniform. Break and lunch arrangements will remain the same, as will the start and end time of the school day.
"We are committed to supporting our students, who deserve the very best education that we can deliver. We are enormously grateful for the dedication and commitment of our staff at Ark Helenswood, and feel it is vital that we continue to work together to address the school improvement priorities and improve the outcomes and life chances of our students.
"I would like to reassure our staff and our parents and carers that we will continue to listen to the union, working together to resolve the remaining issues. Thank you for your patience and understanding."
The union says the walkout is the first of six days of strike action planned for the school. The other planned walkouts inlude a two-day strike between April 18 and April 19 and a three-day strike set to run between May 1 and May 3.
NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates said: “NASUWT members are dedicated and committed teachers who care about the pupils they teach. Taking strike action is the last thing they want to do, but they have been left with no choice as a result of the failure of the employer to engage with us to resolve members’ concerns.
“The teachers need working conditions which support them to focus on meeting the needs of the pupils they teach and which respect them as skilled professionals.
“We remain committed to finding a solution to this dispute and stand ready to engage with the employer on these matters, but tangible action by the employer is needed if further strike action is to be avoided.”