Doubt whether teachers will carry out their threat

Esther Leach

The message was simple from teachers taking industrial action at Don Valley high school in Doncaster: "We just want to be able to get on with our own jobs... without worrying about covering for someone else," said English teacher Steve Shaw.

There seems to be wholesale agreement in the staffroom at the 1,450-pupil school in South Yorkshire, but the effect of their work to rule - when they will refuse to cover for anyone who is off for more than three days - is unlikely to be felt for some time.

"We've only one member of staff off on long-term sick leave and unless a bug hits the school or there's some other problem we don't think we will have to face the issue just yet," said design and technology teacher Trevor Rysdale.

Modern languages teacher Angela Graves - a member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers which has said that its members should not obstruct the action - hinted at problems ahead covering for French and German school tris in May and June. But she also had doubts whether staff would carry out their threat, especially if it meant inconveniencing colleagues.

"The staff here have always been supportive, they won't let each other or the youngsters down. If it came to the crunch I don't know if they would refuse to cover," she said.

"It's true," said food technology teacher Joyce Gregory, a member of the National Union of Teachers. "We have a superb staffroom. We look out for each other and won't let the youngsters lose out. The students shouldn't have to suffer."

The school's headteacher, Bob Johnson, is unstinting in his support for his 90 teaching staff, but he also believes that students should not lose out. The Government, he said, could no longer allow teachers to bear the brunt of staff shortages. He said: "There is a large shortage of staff and teachers are covering for it. They are carrying the burden and they don't see any recognition for it."

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