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Cornish School Hit by Strikes

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:02am 31st January 2013.

Some teachers at a Penzance school are walking out over their work load.

Supply teachers at Heamoor Primary will keep three classes open on Thursday, but more will shut for three days next week.

It is the only school in the south west taking part in the National Union of Teachers action.

Ruth's son is in Year Six. She said: "They're practising for Sats at the moment and this is his last year, his last six months or so. He finishes in September and then he goes to Mounts Bay. It doesn't affect me too much but I do worry about his schooling.

"Next week he has Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday off because of the striking. It may affect his schooling but I know they have to do it. I know that have reasons for it."

Andy Wolley from the National Union of Teachers said: "Unfortunately the Headteacher and Governors at Heamoor are not prepared to limit the workload of their teachers in the way that other schools have done. The school is a good school and there is no question about the ability of the teaching staff but they are being subjected to more stringent and onerous conditions of work than most other teachers.

"We have been negotiating with the school for several months now to try and resolve this issue without recourse to an escalation of the action but we believe that assurances we were given at a meeting with governors earlier in January have not been followed through and we are at an impasse as a result.

"Heamoor Primary is the only school in the whole of the South West Region, stretching as far as Gloucestershire, Swindon and Bournemouth, where this sort of strike action has proved necessary.

"I spent almost a whole day last Friday trying to come to an agreement to no avail and my suggestion that we involve ACAS (the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service) to use their expertise in dispute resolution has not been taken up by the Local Authority who are advising the school.

"It is with great reluctance and after many attempts to reach a solution that members now feel that they have no alternative but to take strike action. We hope that this will help to move discussions forward so we can reach a resolution satisfactory to all concerned but, if no agreement is forthcoming, we will if necessary take further strike action in the following two weeks leading up to half term."

In a statement the school said: "Governors have written to all parents to explain that the school will be closed to the majority of pupils on a number of days in January and February as a result of industrial action being taken by staff who are members of the National Union of Teachers.

"The seven days of proposed strike action are Thursday 31 January; Tuesday 5 February; Wednesday 6 February; Thursday 7 February; Tuesday, 12 February; Wednesday, 13 February and Thursday, 14 February.

"The industrial action is part of an ongoing national campaign being carried out by the NUT and NASUWT over claims of excessive teacher workload and changes to pay, conditions and pensions. This is a national dispute between the unions and the Secretary of State for Education. However, as six out of the seven class teachers at the school are members of the NUT the strike action will affect the majority of classes.

"While the Governing Body recognises teachers' current professional concerns and frustrations in relation to pay and pensions, we have significant reservations about the NUT's current campaign of action, as those most affected (pupils, school leaders and governing bodies) are not in a position to resolve the dispute as it is with the Secretary of State for Education and not with us as employer.

"We have attempted to enter into negotiations with staff and regional representatives of the NUT throughout this process.  Unfortunately, however, this has not proved successful and as the school is not equipped to look after children without teaching staff, we have no choice but to ask parents to make alternative arrangements for the seven days of industrial action.

"We recognise that this will cause inconvenience to parents and carers and would like to apologise for this."

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