Posted: Fri 7th Jul 2023

Potential school strike as Monmouthshire school staff say ‘they do not feel safe working there’

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jul 7th, 2023

Teachers at secondary school have voted in favour of potential strike action, saying they do not feel safe working there. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Concerns over “a constant stream of physical and verbal assaults by a minority of pupils” have, they say, put them at risk and the education of other pupils at Caldicot Comprehensive School in jeopardy. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The NEU (National Educational Union) Cymru teaching union has confirmed it has held an “indicative strike ballot at the school” which could lead to teachers walking out in the autumn term. The NASUWT (National Association of Schoolsmasters Union of Women Teachers) has also confirmed it has balloted members at the school.
Monmouthshire County Council has said it recognises the “behaviour of some pupils has been an issue in the school” but it has disputed it is an “unsafe environment”.
Peter Marsh-Jenks, Wales Officer for NEU, said: “Alongside our colleagues in the NASUWT, the vast majority of academic staff at Caldicot Comprehensive have voted to move towards strike action next term. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“It cannot be stressed enough that a strike is not what our members want. What they want is a workplace free from a constant stream of physical and verbal assaults by a minority of pupils that puts our members’ health and other pupils’ education at risk.”
It is understood concerns over behaviour at the school stretch back to around 2021 and Mr Marsh-Jenks said teachers want senior staff to address the issue.
“This has been a real issue for some considerable time and the school’s management seem unable or unwilling to take real action to address their failure to provide a safe workplace as required by law.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Unresolved issues around behaviour are also understood to have led to some teaching staff leaving the school, with more than 10 set to leave this year, and 13 having left last year. It’s also understood 69 pupils have transferred to other local secondary schools and numbers due to enter Caldicot in September, from its feeder primaries, have dropped as a result of concerns over behaviour.
Though the legal process to call a strike hasn’t yet been completed, Mr Marsh-Jenks said the indicative ballot “showed strong and dominant support for strike action” which it’s thought would most likely take place in October if it is to go ahead. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Monmouthshire County Council said it is aware of potential industrial action and it seeking to find a solution with the school and trade unions while also ensuring it has the support required.
A spokeswoman said: “We recognise that the behaviour of some pupils has been an issue in the school but do not believe that this has created an unsafe environment.
“The council is working closely with the school and trade unions to find a sustainable resolution to the current challenges in the school which will ensure the continued delivery of education and remove the risk of strike action. We are engaging with the leadership of the school to ensure that they have all necessary support.”
The spokeswoman also confirmed a number of pupils are set to transfer from the school but said this could be for a number of reasons.
“With regards to the number of children cited as leaving the school in year we believe this to be correct. However, we would note that there are a range of reasons for pupils changing schools in year such as moving house.  Every year parents and carers will make decisions about which secondary school their children attend and they will do this for a range of reasons.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

During the prolonged spell of high temperatures in June the school hit the headlines over claims pupils had been placed in isolation for wearing shorts rather than the regulation, full length black trousers. It was also reported some boys had worn skirts as the school, which has to have a non-gendered uniform, wouldn’t allow them to wear shorts.
Headteacher Steven Grech said at the time it was “incorrect” that boys had been placed in isolation but declined to comment further on the claims as he said it “shouldn’t be for public consumption.” Following criticism of the school’s uniform policy, and claims it is at odds with statutory Welsh Government guidance on affordability and comfort, the school was criticised by senior members of the county council.
Caldicot School was approached for comment. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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