School denies union accusations about agency staff amid strike

Placards at the NEU picket of Oaks Park School

NEU members are striking at Oaks Park - Credit: Redbridge NEU

Oaks Park High School has denied union accusations that it used agency staff to cover strikers.

The National Education Union (NEU), which is engaged in an ongoing industrial dispute with the school and Redbridge Council, alleged agency staff were brought in last Tuesday (September 7) to cover for teachers and support staff as they began six days of planned strike action. 

The school in Newbury Park said support implemented during the strike was "appropriate and legitimate".

Under UK law, agencies are not allowed to supply workers specifically to cover work that is not being done during lawful industrial action. 

A spokesperson for the school said: “The safety and education of children are our topmost priorities, particularly in view of all the disruption to education as a result of Covid.   

“Throughout the industrial action involving a small minority of staff, the support implemented was appropriate and legitimate."

The NEU is part-way through a six-day strike action, which will come to an end on Thursday, September 16. 

It is demanding the re-instatement of a rep, as well as measures to address what they allege is a "bullying culture" at the school. 

The union first took strike action in the summer, accusing senior management of "victimizing" staff after they asked to work offsite during the second wave of Covid-19. 

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Redbridge Council said after reviewing the evidence, it was satisfied none of the school’s actions had been motivated by such requests, made under section 44 of the Employment Rights Act. 

Last week, a council spokesperson said it regretted disruption caused by the strike action, but said it was satisfied that the school had acted “in accordance to their policies in regard to one of the union representatives”.   

They added that they would always follow up concerns about members of staff with leaders and governors.  

The NEU said it intends to push for further strike action if a resolution is not reached, and claimed it is also considering taking the school and local authority to an employment tribunal.  

Redbridge Council did not respond to a request for further comment.