Posted: Mon 24th Jul 2023

Teachers at Gwent secondary school consider striking over safety concerns as review finds pupil behaviour risks learning /
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jul 24th, 2023

A REVIEW of a troubled Gwent secondary where teachers are considering striking on safety fears has found some pupils’ behaviour is putting learning at risk.
Members of the two main teaching unions at Caldicot Comprehensive School have voted in favour of potential strike action saying they do not feel safe due to the behaviour of some pupils.
The councillor in charge of education in Monmouthshire has confirmed that the Educational Achievement Service (EAS), the school improvement service for Gwent, has conducted a review at Caldicot School which identified shortcomings and that the behaviour of some pupils is putting learning at risk.
He said the service and the council are “working through some challenges predominantly focused around issues of the management of behaviour” at the school.
Cllr Martyn Groucutt said the achievement service had carried out a “detailed” two-day review at the school last week and acknowledged members of the council were likely to be aware of the issues due to “recent press coverage” after the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed teachers from the NEU (National Educational Union) Cymru and NASUWT (National Association of Schoolsmasters Union of Women Teachers) had held an indicative ballot showing support for potential strike action.
A petition asking the school to reconsider its ban on pupils wearing shorts, and claims pupils had been placed in isolation for failing to wear regulation school trousers during June’s heatwave, had also been reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and other media.
Cllr Groucutt said the review had reported six main findings and told the councilL “Everyone agrees the school could be a successful learning organisation with the right challenge.”
But it found, “as was evident from the current industrial action”, there is “not currently an effective whole school vision, culture and ethos to build and establish effective relationships across the whole school community”, and that “teaching and learning is at times inhibited by the behaviour of some learners.”
The Labour cabinet member had been asked to make a statement on the school, at July’s full council meeting, by Conservative councillor for Chepstow Mount Pleasant, Paul Pavia.
Cllr Groucutt said the review had concluded the school is “committed to improving its culture and working collaboratively to develop a whole school strategy for learning.”
It found ‘most’ – classes as more than 90 per cent – of pupils are “courteous and welcoming towards visitors”, and in many cases more than 70 per cent display “appropriate behaviour in and around school”.
The review also found that a majority of pupils – more than 60 per cent – “reported developing positive relationships with their teachers and were well supported by them to learn.”
This means up to 40 per cent of pupils didn’t report positive relationships or that they were well supported by their teachers.
On discipline the review also found shortcomings, with pupils not “fully understanding” the school’s policies, feeling that they were unfair and that their opinions weren’t taken into account, contrary to national guidance.
Cllr Groucutt said: “Many pupils, that is over 70 per cent, did not fully understand the behaviour for learning policy currently in place and felt they had no voice in its creation however they were aware of the rules and sanctions but felt some of the listed sanctions were not fair or reasonable.”
As a result it was found the policy needs to be “reviewed and simplified to aid its understanding for all stakeholders”.
The former headteacher said the council’s chief officer for children and young people, Will McLean, is working with the school and the trade unions on a potential mediation agreement.
Richard John, the leader of the Conservative opposition, welcomed Cllr Groucutt’s statement but repeated criticism he’d made at June’s council meeting of cabinet members, including leader Mary Ann Brocklesby, who had signed a petition asking the school to reconsider its uniform policy and finance chief Rachel Garrick who had commented to the media.
Cllr John said: “I think it’s important to recognise the school has many strengths but clearly we want every school to be the best it can be and shortcomings do need to be addressed.
“I do regret the megaphone diplomacy some cabinet members recently engaged in and I hope the relationship between the administration and the school has been smoothed over.”
He also asked if a councillor-only seminar could be held for them to undestand the challenges “in a private setting” so they could “reassure” members of the public.
Cllr Groucutt replied: “I would reassure members I had very positive contact with the headteacher we are working closely, as is our chief officer, these are our people, our teaching staff but just as, if not more importantly, these are our pupils and we want them to succeed and I give you my pledge we will take whatever action is considered necessary to give every piece of support that is considered necessary in helping this school.”
He said the council would “hide nothing” about problems and support and if a “members seminar is the best way to do that we will” but said he hoped the long summer holidays, that start this week, would “take some steam out of the situation”.
But he acknowledged: “We will come back in September and face these difficulties again.”
The cabinet member also reminded Cllr John, who had previously held the education post, other schools had previously experienced similar problems and “they are now thriving in a way they were not a few years ago”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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

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