Monday, 30 November 2015

Teachers at “chaotic” Tech City free school vote unanimously to strike

The following post is an extract from a Press Release issued by Islington NUT this evening: 

Teachers at “chaotic” free school vote unanimously to strike. 

Strike action was also taken by NUT members at STEM6 in February 2014

Teachers at Tech City, a 16-19 free school formerly known as STEM 6, have voted unanimously to strike for five days before the Xmas holidays in support of their demand for humane and workable performance management and a fair pay policy. (Tuesday 8th, Wednesday 9th, Tuesday 15th, Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th December).

The aim of the strike is that Aspirations, the academy chain which took over STEM 6 and renamed it at the beginning of September, should agree:

  • to a performance management policy - like the one adopted in large majority of Islington schools – with limits on the number of times a teacher can be observed for performance management purposes each year and reasonable notice of the lesson in which a teacher is going to be observed.
  • to a pay policy which allows teachers to progress up the appropriate pay scale unless they have previously been given reasonable notice that there is scope for improvement as well as adequate time and support to achieve it.

As the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, wrote to head teachers last year: ‘There should be no surprises’. At Tech City, in November, staff had some big surprises. More than a third of them were refused incremental pay progression mainly on the grounds that the exam results achieved by the students they taught last year weren’t good enough – even though they had been given no warning last year that this could be the outcome of supposed deficiencies in their teaching; even though they had been given no support in addressing and overcoming these deficiencies; even though it is impossible to reduce the cause of a group of students’ exam results to the teaching of an individual teacher; even though a better explanation of the relatively disappointing overall results achieved by STEM 6 last summer had a whole lot more to do with the chaos which reigned at STEM 6 from the time it was established back in September 2013.

These are only some of the many complaints the NUT has received from its members at Tech City:

  • The Leadership has been confusing and chaotic from the start. Plans for the session change right up to the last minute and often during the session itself .
  • There is no organisation to Leadership. Instructions have been emailed on the leadership day at 10.41 (sessions start at 10.40) and this is unacceptable for planning.
  • Parents are being contacted to attend “crisis meetings” based on attendance data which is not accurate. Attendance is the biggest issue and blame has been pushed on to teachers by management.
  • I have been denied pay progression despite never having been given performance targets to meet.
  • I found it totally unacceptable that students were told in assembly and informed in the autumn newsletter that the teaching and learning was not to the right standard and that from January onwards it would be addressed with “better teachers”.

Back in September this year, local MP, Emily Thornberry, wrote to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, expressing concerns about developments at what was then STEM 6 calling for ‘urgent action’ to rescue this academy’.
Not entirely satisfied by the response she received from Lord Nash (on behalf of Nicky Morgan) she wrote back to him expressing further concern about ‘considerable difficulties’ at Tech City, including the resignation of seven teachers (half the teaching staff) this term and the ‘little progress towards improving working arrangements and performance management’.

Islington NUT Joint Secretary, Ken Muller, commented:

"These important questions bring in to relief the chaos which has reigned around STEM 6 / Tech City from the start, chaos which has damaged the educational opportunities of the students who have enrolled there and the teachers whose working lives and careers have been blighted by the incompetence of those who are meant to be providing them with support and direction. 

Tech City teachers are being scapegoated, bullied and penalised for the failings of others.
That is why they are reluctantly going on strike – and that is why they deserve the support of colleagues in other schools, their students and their parents and the rest of the local community".

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