Teachers strike at Sheffield primary school in row over 'imposed changes to policy, workload, stress and management practices'

Teachers and support staff have gone on strike at a primary school in Sheffield.

Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 11:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:25 am
National Education Union members on the picket line outside Westways Primary School, in Crookes

Staff walked out at Westways Primary School, in Crookes, this morning over changes made by the school's executive headteacher.

It is the first of four days of planned strike action by members of the National Education Union.

The union said staff are unhappy with changes to policy, workload and management practices which they claim were introduced without consultation by executive headteacher Sam Fearnehough, who was brought in at the end of the last academic year to improve standards following two poor Ofsted reports.

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Staff claim this has led increased stress and a drop in morale.

Mrs Fernehough said the changes have already had a 'positive impact' and that discussions took place with senior leader and teaching staff about a range of improvements.

She added that the 'majority of staff' are happy with the changes and do not support the strike action.

Teachers and support staff were joined on the picket line by parents and children from the school, which remained open to two-third of pupils.

National Education Union members are unhappy with changes introduced at the school

Year three teacher Helen Waterman said union members just wanted to be listened to.

She said: "All we want is to feel like we are being treated like professional teachers and we can have a say in developing the curriculum in the right way so we feel ownership of it rather than just being dictated to."

She added that teachers felt they are being 'asked to teach to test' and the curriculum had been narrowed to focus more on English and maths.

"We never wanted it to come to a strike," said Mrs Waterman, a teacher at the school of 20 years.

Parent Francyne Johnson, who set up a petition in support of the teachers, on the picket line

"We never wanted to disrupt the education of the children but we feel it's so important that we keep the curriculum at Westways."

Dave Pike, regional officer for the NEU, said the union members had been trying to negotiate with leaders at the school since June.

"We are now in December. All the members want is to be listened to.

"Our members feel they have been ignored and not being listened to and that is all that is needed here."

National Education Union members are unhappy with changes introduced at the school

Francyne Johnson, who has a child at the school, set up a petition in support of the staff which has gained more than 600 signatures.

Speaking on the picket line, she said: "I set up the petition because the teachers are fighting for things that are really important.

"An increase in Sats style testing and a loss of play based learning and we know this isn't just a local issue it's a microcosm of a national issue.

"There is a worrying amount of teachers leaving the profession.

"There is quite a large amount of evidence to support play based learning which encourages children to think for themselves."

Mrs Fearnehough said: “Westways is a school that ‘requires improvement’ twice now since 2014.

Parent Francyne Johnson, who set up a petition in support of the teachers, on the picket line

“Children, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged are not achieving their potential and that is the reason it is a double RI school.

“Every member of staff has worked hard to make much needed changes and improvements are already beginning to shine through.

“The quality of teaching is improving and all children are now beginning to make better progress.

“The NEU want to stop leaders from observing teachers and looking at children’s work to make the improvements needed. This approach will undo the gains we have made since September.

“The majority of staff do not support strike action and the school is open for nearly all classes.

“The governors and I are saddened that the NEU has chosen to continue to induce it’s members to strike rather than meet to talk about ways forward.

“A meeting has been arranged for Wednesday, December 6 but the NEU still refuses to call off strike action. Such action will only harm Westways children and families.”

Further strike action is planned for tomorrow, Tuesday, December 12, and Wednesday, December 13.