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Teachers threat to strike at Darwen school over pupil behaviour
TEACHERS are threatening to strike because they are fed up with the bad behaviour of unruly pupils — and feel bosses aren’t backing them up.
Emergency talks are due to take place today in a bid to avert the action at Darwen Vale High School.
Unions said staff felt the school was ‘out of control’ and they were receiving several complaints each day from teachers, which included:
• threats of false allegations from pupils which could lead to suspension;
• physical assaults including pushing and shoving;
• verbal abuse such as repeated swearing;
• some pupils filming teachers on mobile phones, which have then been confiscated by staff but later returned by senior management.
The union claims pupils are most unruly in corridors and halls but say the behaviour has filtered into the classroom.
Headteacher Hilary Torpey, who began her first full academic year at the school in September, said allegations relating to pupil behaviour were taken ‘extremely seriously’.
She said she wanted to reassure parents and pupils that they were trying to resolve any concerns with staff, unions and the borough council.
Coun Simon Huggill, associate governor, questioned the teachers’ actions. He said: “I want to express some element of surprise because I think a lot of this is far better sorted out out of the public eye because it can damage the confidence of pupils.”
But ward councillor Roy Davies said respect should be given to teachers.
He said: “We have got to support teachers. They are paramount in education. Striking would be detrimental to everybody.”
Unions - both teaching and non-teaching - have been working together after members contacted them about alleged ‘daily physical and verbal threats’ from students.
The NUT, the ATL, NASUWT and Unison said members initially tried to deal with the situation internally before Christmas.
But staff have now decided to inolve unions again over concerns management were ‘undermining’ their discipline procedures and failing to act on their complaints.
The NUT is to ballot for strike action. The vote later this week could see up to half of the 80 teaching staff walk out and refuse to work.
But a meeting is being held today (tues) with the chair of governors, headteacher and unions in a bid to resolve the dispute.
Simon Jones, from the NUT, said: “I can confirm I have given notice to ballot members at Darwen Vale High School in connection with management’s failure to support our members who are dealing with behavioural problems.
“We are seeking an urgent meeting with management.
“Our ballot opens this week however we are committed to trying to resolve the dispute.”
Jim Dye, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, ATL, regional official for Blackburn and Darwen, said: “We are keen to ensure that a positive, safe and friendly learning environment for both pupils and staff is achieved at the school.
“We would hope to have a positive outcome from that meeting. If, however, the concerns of our members are not adequately addressed then of course we would carefully need to consider other options.”
Blackburn with Darwen Unison branch assistant secretary Denise Wilkins added: “Our members have been experiencing the same issues with pupils behaviour as members of other teaching unions.”
NASUWT said it was unable to comment at present.
In its latest Ofsted inspection in June 2010 Darwen Vale was rated as a good school where pupils behaviour was also given a good rating. The disciplinary procedures have remained the same under Mrs Torpey.
On Darwen Value Mrs Torpey said: "Any allegations relating to pupil behaviour are always taken extremely seriously.
"Whilst it has been a challenging time for the school, staff and pupils, incidents such as exclusions relating to behavioural problems have actually reduced compared with recent years.
"I would like to reassure parents and pupils that we are working closely with Blackburn with Darwen Council, the school's leadership, unions and staff to resolve any concerns."
Most parents spoken to by the Lancashire Telegraph yesterday backed the school.
John Straw, from Blackburn, whose stepdaughter Chloe Hilton, 15, is at the school, said he had not heard of any problems and Chloe loved the school.
A father who asked to remain anonymous said: “My son has had a few problems and they haven’t been resolved. But I don’t think this is any different to any other school in the area.”
A grandmother, who also declined to give their name, said: “I am shocked to hear they are balloting for strike action because I haven’t heard of any problems.”
An anonymous parent who has a son in year nine said: “My son has been bullied in this school and the teachers didn’t do enough about it. All the students are at it with the bad behaviour.”
Raymond Eccles, 59, from Darwen, who has four grandchildren at the school, said: “They absolutely love it here.”