School's teachers take industrial action

TEACHERS at an Essex school are refusing to cover for ill colleagues as part of an industrial dispute with the school's management team.Fears were yesterday voiced that The Harwich School and Language College, in Dovercourt, might end up in special measures if it was suddenly the subject of an Ofsted inspection.

TEACHERS at an Essex school are refusing to cover for ill colleagues as part of an industrial dispute with the school's management team.

Fears were yesterday voiced that The Harwich School and Language College, in Dovercourt, might end up in special measures if it was suddenly the subject of an Ofsted inspection.

Teachers belonging to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) are currently engaged in a dispute with Jackie Froggatt, the headteacher, over the way discretionary bonus payments - called the Upper Pay Spine (UPS) - are being awarded to teachers.

UPS-3 payments are awarded to teachers in recognition of those who play a critical role in the life of schools.

A source at the school yesterday said if it were suddenly inspected by Ofsted - its last inspection was in 1999 so a visit by the watchdog is imminent - he feared the school would go into special measures partly because of the current dispute.

The source added: “There is an atmosphere in the school and it is very divisive. There will be an impact on the children as we get further into winter and more people fall ill because there will be more and more classes not covered by qualified teaching staff.

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“The school and the children really don't need this type of situation. It just seems to be going from bad to worse.”

Parents have not been informed of the industrial action and the matter was not raised as a matter for the full governing body at its most recent meeting.

Members of the union at the school were balloted over the summer months and decided to take industrial action, which involves refusing to cover for sick colleagues.

Miss Froggatt, said the NASUWT members balloted for industrial action prior to her full review of the UPS system at the school.

She said: “We are very close to resolving matters. We were requested to review certain things and that review was carried out in September.”

Miss Froggatt, who earlier this year barred pupils from attending the Queen's visit to Harwich while attending the event herself, confirmed that parents had not been told of the dispute. She said while negotiations had been taking place - with Steve Fender, the chairman of the school's governing body, fully involved in proceedings - the entire governing body had not been involved.

She declined to comment about the procedures currently in place to cover classes in the event of staff being off sick.

Norman Warren, NASUWT secretary for Essex, said: “The disagreement was over the UPS determinations because we were concerned about the process through which they were being applied.

“We did ballot and the governors were all informed about that. I am hoping it will be sorted out very soon.”

He added that the action had minimal impact on pupils' education, other than the effect of teachers working to rule and not giving the normal extra contribution.

Jerry Glazier, Essex general secretary and national executive committee member of the National Union of Teachers, said he would be supporting his union members if they wished to appeal over UPS payments.

Essex County Council's human resources team have been advising Miss Froggatt on the handling of the dispute.

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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