Portishead teachers may strike due to long working hours

Gordano School, in Portishead. Picture: Mark Atherton

Staff at Gordano School could strike in protest of increasingly long working hours. - Credit: Archant

Teaching staff at a North Somerset school may go on strike in protest of being made to work increasingly long hours throughout the Covid pandemic.

Gordano School, in Portishead, has held crunch talks with the National Education Union (NEU) but has not yet been able to meet its staff's demands.

As a result, workers have been balloted to strike - meaning a vote has been cast by all members of the union on whether they wish to strike or not with a result expected on January 20.

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

A number of meetings have been held between both parties, most recently in December. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The NEU's regional officer for the South West has told The Times newspaper the union hopes a strike will not be necessary as its members do not want to disturb their pupil's educations.

Ian McCann said: "The workload of teachers has gradually increased over time and has now got to a stage where it is not acceptable or sustainable.

"Our members are working long hours and not all of this additional work has a direct benefit for pupils. Teachers want a sustained reduction in this unreasonable workload.

"Regular meetings do take place between the NEU and the employer, but these have not been able to bring about a resolution to our members' genuine concerns."

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Most recently, meetings have been held on November 22 and December 14 where some progress had been made but not sufficient in the view of NEU members who want to be balloted for strike action.

Mr McCann further stressed the teaching staff's requests.

He added: "Our teacher members want a reduction in workload and the NEU has made the employer aware of ways we think that this could be achieved.

"As examples, we have expressed concerns regarding additional lessons, the number of staff briefings, working hours on days with parents evenings and others.

"Although some areas have been changed by the employer, these would not make a sufficient difference overall. It is the view of members that all of the suggestions made by the NEU to the employer need to be adopted to make the long term change that is needed."

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It is hoped a strike will not be necessary. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Gary Lewis, Chief Executive at Lighthouse Schools Partnership which oversees Gordano School, confirmed to the Times that negotiations had taken place with NEU but denies increasing working hours for staff.

Mr Lewis said: “The school has not increased working hours for staff during the pandemic but rather has reduced the number of staff briefings, set a limit on the length of staff meetings after school, offered flexible working opportunities to staff and agreed to an early finish on days where there is a Parents Evening. 

"This is in recognition of the challenges that our staff have faced during the pandemic. We recognise that it has been a very tough time for everyone, and we have appreciated that our staff have gone the second mile to support our pupils.

“As the distance between the two sides is relatively small, it is frustrating that NEU has threatened strike action, especially in the present circumstances when we are trying so hard to keep schools open.

"We shall continue to engage with the union with the hope of coming to a sensible agreement.”

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