By JR on Saturday, March 10, 2012
Teachers at an under-achieving school walked out on strike yesterday in a row over ‘out-of-control’ pupils. The staff claim the headmaster and board of governors have failed to support them in tackling dangerous behaviour by unruly children. Incidents highlighted include a firework being let off in a corridor and a knife being brought into class.
Teachers have also reported pupils regularly fighting during lessons and verbally abusing staff.
Castle Vale Performing Arts College in Birmingham is rated ‘satisfactory’ by Ofsted – the third of four possible rankings awarded by the inspectorate. But last year just 29 per cent of students gained five A*-C grades, including maths and English, in their GCSEs – compared with a national average of 58.2 per cent.
Headmaster Clive Owen yesterday said he was ‘disappointed and disturbed’ by the decision of some 40 staff to strike. But the NASUWT teaching union claimed its members had been left with no option but to walk out and called for an investigation into management at the school.
Union representative Ben Ball, who has taught at the school for 32 years, said behaviour was so bad at times that the school resembled a ‘battlefield’. ‘The behaviour of the pupils has got to a stage where action must be taken,’ he said. ‘There is a core group whose behaviour is completely unacceptable, and downright dangerous, who prevent us from teaching the rest of the children.’
He said the school’s behaviour policy was not followed through by senior management, with the result that ‘the kids know that nothing will happen to them if they continue to behave the way they are doing.’ Yesterday morning, most of those on strike manned a picket line outside the school in the city’s 1960s Castle Vale housing estate.
NASUWT has pencilled in March 20 and 21 for two more days of strike action, but said it would suspend these in the event of an approach from the school for further talks.
A teacher on the picket line, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘The children are out of control, they are bringing blades into school, smoking openly and even bully some teachers. But kids will get sent home by the management for not having a pencil case and then when a teacher’s been sworn at by a pupil nothing’s happened.’
The strike meant the school, which has around 800 pupils and 75 teachers, was closed to all but Year 11 students, who are set to take GCSE exams in the summer. Parents had mixed reactions to the action. Some condemned the teachers for walking out, but others had sympathy for their situation. One said the school was ‘like a zoo’ where children ‘run riot’.
Mr Owen said: ‘A number of meetings with the union have been held to avoid this.’ A spokesman for Birmingham Council said it would convene a meeting with all parties in an effort to head off the two further planned strikes.