Portishead teachers WILL strike over workload dispute

Stress and mental health issues led to North Somerset teachers taking 4,358 off sick over the past f

Staff at Gordano School have voted to strike over workload disputes. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Teaching staff at a school in Portishead have voted 'overwhelmingly' to strike in a dispute over increased working hours.

Crunch talks had been held between the Gordano School and National Education Union (NEU) to find an agreement, but no breakthrough was made before a strike ballot took place today (January 20).

The teachers have warned their employers that they will be taking six days of action - with the first being in early February.

Gordano School, in Portishead. Picture: Mark Atherton

Six days of action will be taken by staff at Gordano School. - Credit: Archant

A senior regional officer for the NEU said staff continue to want the best for students but cannot deliver that with such demanding hours during the pandemic.

Ian McCann said: “The reason our members at the school have voted “yes” for strike action is because of their unacceptable workload.

"It has increased over the recent months and years and has now come to such a level that it is having a detrimental effect on our members' welfare.

"Members have simply had enough and want sustained change. They want the best for the pupils in their care and have recognised that constant tiredness and low morale among staff will not help to deliver this."

Gordano School is a part of the Lighthouse Schools Partnership, a trust responsible for 21 schools across North Somerset, North East Somerset and Bath.

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Mr McCann stressed that strike action did not have to be taken but staff feel there is no other option following the meetings.

He added: "Although negotiation meetings have taken place between the NEU and the employer’s representatives this week, it has not been possible for an agreement to be reached. It seems the employer has little interest in preventing strike action.

"This is disappointing, as we believe that members issues are reasonable, genuine and easily resolved. NEU members have been left with no option and they will be taking strike action in February.

"The NEU remains hopeful that this dispute can be resolved before any strike action is due to take place and calls upon the employer to meet with us and commit to making a sustainable change that will reduce teachers’ workload. The employer needs to value education and value educators”

A spokesperson for the school has told the Times that, after holding talks, there was only one demand which it was unable to meet. 

They said: “It is a matter of enormous regret that the NEU has pursued a strike at Gordano School.

"There are no demands or expectations of staff at the school that go beyond the hours and terms of their contracts and the school has taken considerable steps to offer greater flexibility and address the pressure points that the NEU has identified.

"These talks continued throughout the period when the strike ballot was held and we now have agreement on almost all areas.

"The only remaining point is a demand from the union for a 2.25pm finish on days that have a Parents Evening.  It is not acceptable to leaders at the school to allow the teaching day to be determined by the NEU as this is a matter that affects pupils, parents, the community and other schools in the Trust. Despite offering to consult properly on these arrangements the NEU have been unwilling to drop the threat of industrial action”.

The first of six dates of action will be February 3.