Spectre of strike returns to Ridings

16th February 2007 at 00:00
history is repeating itself at the Ridings, once dubbed the worst school in England, where a vote for industrial action has thrown the Yorkshire comprehensive back into crisis.

A last-ditch meeting was taking place yesterday between the Halifax school's management and a high-level delegation from the NASUWT teaching union, to try and avoid industrial action over pupil behaviour and working practices.

A similar situation occurred in 1996, when a strike threat over behaviour by the same union led the Ridings to receive worldwide media attention and forced Gillian Shephard, then education secretary, to intervene.

The school was supposed to have been turned around by two "super-heads", Peter Clarke and Anna White, who were made CBEs. Tony Blair had used the Ridings as an example of New Labour's education successes.

But its GCSE results are now the fourth worst in the country and its truancy levels the third highest. Ofsted is expected to place it back in special measures shortly.

Of the NASUWT's 30 members at the school, 15 have backed industrial action over pupil behaviour, workload, working practices and conditions, and 14 have supported strike action. Steve White, NASUWT executive member, said the union had been in talks since May but that the school's response had been "pathetic".

Behaviour was not as bad as in 1996, when the union produced a list of pupils it wanted expelled, he said.

"We have got some extremely bad behaviour in places, but sometimes you can't blame the kids because the school's behaviour policy is poor and people don't know where they stand," he said.

The union said its members were being expected to log incidents of good and bad behaviour into the computer system, Sleuth, which could take 90 minutes a day. It also had concerns about lesson observations and the way new teaching and learning responsibility payments had been implemented.

Sue McMahon, Calderdale secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said issues raised by their members had been settled with management and they did not feel industrial action was necessary.

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