Teachers strike over protest pay stoppage

Teachers on strike Teaching unions are in dispute with the government over pay, conditions and pensions.

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Teachers at an academy school in east London are on strike after their monthly pay was docked for taking part in national work-to-rule-type action.

Stratford Academy in Newham has stayed open, with pupils coming in for part of the day.

It is the first time this latest industrial action by the two big teaching unions in England and Wales has escalated to a full strike.

The school says the teachers are in breach of contract.

Governors deducted 15% of the latest monthly pay of teachers taking part in the on-going industrial action because they believed it could damage pupils' education.

The action is over pay, working conditions and pensions.

'Detrimental'

Stratford Academy head teacher Andrew Seager said the school had made good progress in the past five years, with results rising from 42% of pupils getting five good GCSEs including maths and English to 62%.

"We believe that the improvement in the school's performance is down to the way the academy now operates - but if this [national industrial action] goes on for a year, the quality of education will drop," he said.

In particular, he said the national industrial action was damaging a system for monitoring and improving teaching.

"The unions are instructing their members to refuse to carry out certain duties and tasks, the effect of which will be that the school will not be able to check and monitor the work of teachers taking action, and we know this will be to the detriment of our pupils," he said.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Nasuwt say the reverse is true, that by not doing routine tasks such as photocopying or having "unacceptable levels of meetings", teachers can focus more on teaching and learning.

They say the national industrial action is not a work-to-rule because members are being encouraged to do and are still doing voluntary activities, such as leading clubs in their own time after school.

What teachers are being told not to do is to take part in more than three lesson observations a year (where senior or other staff sit in on lessons), attend meetings outside of the normal day, prepare more than one written report to parents and cover for absent colleagues.

Several other days of strike action are now planned at the school. The school says it deducted pay from 12 teachers on the grounds they were "part-performing". The unions estimate about 40 of the secondary school's teachers took part in today's strike.

Chris Keates, Nasuwt general secretary, said: "The teachers have been seeking to defend their pay and conditions, as part of a national trade dispute with the secretary of state in which the overwhelming majority of teachers across the country are engaged, without any disruption being caused to pupils and parents.

"The teachers deeply regret the disruption pupils and parents now face but it is entirely due to the... actions of the governors and school management."

'Penalising'

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: "The teachers are dedicated and committed to the young people they teach.

"Instead of penalising and punishing them, the governors should focus on pressing the secretary of state to resolve the national trade dispute and end his relentless attacks on the teaching profession."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We are very disappointed that the NUT and Nasuwt have chosen to [strike].

"The NUT and NASUWT are taking industrial action about pay and working conditions before the independent pay review body has made any recommendations."

The unions and Mr Seager both say they hope to resolve the dispute between teachers and the school through future talks.

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