A CONTROVERSIAL headteacher is facing a revolt from her staff after a union’s decision to call three one-day strikes at her Hartlepool primary school.
The largest teachers’ union in the UK, the NASUWT, has given notice of industrial action by its members at Lynnfield Primary School, in Grosvenor Street, on Tuesday, July 9, Tuesday, July 16 and Thursday, July 18, on the back of new school policies.
Talks are ongoing in a bid to resolve the dispute and avoid strike action. But school head Marian Fairley has spoken of her “shock and surprise” at the union’s decision.
If strike action does go-ahead, Mrs Fairley hopes the school will be able to operate almost as normal on all three days – and she is pledging to keep parents fully informed.
The Hartlepool headteacher is no stranger to hitting the headlines and just a few weeks ago announced plans to slap £60 fines on parents who take their kids on unauthorised holidays during term time.
There are 17 teachers at the school – in addition to the headteacher and deputy head teacher – and 13 of those are members of the NASUWT.
The industrial dispute centres on aspects of two policy documents – a Teaching and Learning Policy and a Governors’ Visits Policy – which were approved by the school’s governing body earlier this year.
A main sticking point is union concerns that anyone observing a lesson should be a qualified teacher.
Mrs Fairley said: “I subsequently decided that parts of both policies should not be implemented until efforts had been made to resolve issues raised by the union – which had been consulted on both policies – and we made it clear that we were happy for discussions to continue on the sticking points.
“In fact, at a meeting in May we had a very constructive and positive conversation with union representatives, so the news of the strikes came like a bolt out of the blue.
“I am a member of the National Association of Head Teachers and I have taken part in industrial action in relation to the national agenda on pensions. But in my view these proposed strikes are both unprovoked and unwarranted.”
Mrs Fairley said she was saddened that two of the proposed strike days would coincide with the school’s annual summer fair and a transition day when all of the school’s pupils visit the classroom they are going to be in the following year and meet their new teacher.
Mrs Fairley said: “The transition day on July 18 is a big occasion for pupils and it would be really sad if a child’s new teacher wasn’t present due to the industrial action.”
A regional spokesman for the NASUWT, which stands for National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: “We have had meetings with the local authority to try and resolve this issue as strike action is always the last resort of the NASUWT.
“However, since notice has been issued there has been correspondence between us and the head and discussions are ongoing at the moment to resolve this issue and avert action for Tuesday.”
Mrs Fairley has worked hard to boost attendance and first made the headlines in 2011 when she introduced voucher incentives to parents to improve punctuality.
She also brought in a system where parents were sent an early-morning text message. But in October last year she was forced to perform a U-turn after announcing the school would only serve halal meat to pupils at lunchtime.