Teachers strike in discipline row
Teachers at a troubled high school said they were "delighted" with the turnout after starting a one-day strike over claims of bad behaviour by children and poor treatment from bosses.
Staff at Darwen Vale High School in Darwen, Lancashire, say they are angry over a lack of backing from the head, Hilary Torpey, and other management at the school when they confront unruly children.
The unusual move comes after Education Secretary Michael Gove signalled a new crackdown on discipline in the classroom. Around 70 teachers with placards picketed the school gates, cheering the occasional hooting of horns in support from passing motorists.
Simon Jones, a local National Union of Teachers (NUT) official manning the picket line, said: "We are delighted with the turnout and the support we are receiving.
"This is not a strike against pupils. It is about management, and management failure to support staff in dealing with challenging behaviour. No one wants to demonise the children here, they are no better or no worse than any other. The biggest difference between this school and other schools is the management failure to support staff."
The new head, believed to earn between £80,000 and £100,000 a year, was at her desk in the school, but it was a free day for the 1,100 pupils.
Members of both the NUT and National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) had voted overwhelmingly for the one-day strike action. The action comes after what unions claim are months of complaints from members about both the pupils and the school management's way of dealing with teachers who have to enforce discipline in the classroom.
Unions say complaints from members at the school include teachers being pushed, shoved and sworn at, and some pupils filming staff on mobile phones and clips being posted on Facebook. There have also been problems of cyberbullying and pornography.
But when teachers confiscated pupils' phones, they have then been returned by management, leaving staff "totally undermined", it is claimed. And since last September, when the new head was appointed, five teachers have been suspended, according to staff at the school.
Harry Devonport, director of education at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, suggested the teachers had been hasty in going out on strike. He said: "I am very disappointed that, so quickly, teachers have felt the need to take strike action... The council is working hard to bring the leadership of the school, together with the unions, to clarify what needs to be done."