Talks on staff ‘bullying’ ease school strike fears

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THREATS of industrial action at more than 20 Sheffield schools have receded after unions held emergency talks with education chiefs.

Unions are unhappy about alleged stress caused by ‘bullying’ headteachers and senior staff.

Officials from the National Union of Teachers had called on the city’s education chief Dr Sonia Sharp to intervene in protest against excessive workloads and aggressive management styles.

The NUT and fellow NASUWT union planned to take industrial action against what they called a ‘culture of fear’ and ‘insane pressures’ in some schools.

But Dr Sharp said the council had agreed to work with unions to tackle what she agreed was a cause of concern.

“We have met the union officials to discuss the situation at the schools which have been at the centre of attention,” she said.

“They have talked about a climate of fear at some schools, we’ve been talking about that - and it may well be that staff at some schools have been harshly treated.

“But it is also true that some heads are working hard to turn schools around and in some places there has been a resistance to that agenda,” Dr Sharp said.

“We are going to continue to work hard to resolve the situation, and we are confident there is no immediate threat of industrial action,” she said.

Some teachers have also been concerned about the large number of headships currently falling vacant in Sheffield - saying the figure is proof that stress is increasingly forcing heads out of the profession.

And a tendency to have senior heads running more than one school has been said to be the result of reluctance by teachers to move into a management role.

There are currently vacancies for heads at 14 city schools - 13 in primaries - 11 of which must be filled by September.