More strike action planned in Newbury Park school dispute

National Education Union members protested outside Redbridge Council's cabinet meeting last Thursday, October 21.

National Education Union members protested outside Redbridge Council's cabinet meeting last Thursday, October 21. - Credit: LDRS

Staff at Oaks Park High School plan to continue striking in a long-running dispute at the school. 

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) at the Newbury Park school protested outside Redbridge Council’s cabinet meeting last Thursday (October 21), calling on cabinet members to mediate the disagreement. 

The union has been striking since June, demanding the reinstatement of a rep as well as measures to address an alleged “bullying culture” at the school. 

Venda Premkumar, district secretary for Redbridge NEU, said the dispute started when staff were told to come into school during the national lockdown in January this year. 

National Education Union strikers on the picket line at Oaks Park High School

National Education Union strikers on the picket line at Oaks Park High School in late September - Credit: NEU

Venda said an NEU rep who challenged the instruction to travel to school subsequently lost his job for gross misconduct, but would not elaborate on the details of the allegation. 

The council has previously stated that while it regrets the disruption caused by the strike action, it is satisfied that the school acted “in accordance to their policies in regard to one of the union representatives”. 

The authority was satisfied the school’s actions had not been motivated by requests to work offsite made under section 44 of the Employment Rights Act. 

It will always follow up concerns about members of staff with leaders and governors, the spokesperson added.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, council leader Jas Athwal told protesters he will “deal with it” and is “talking and will continue to do so”. 

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Venda told the Local Democracy Reporting Service at least 12 more days of strikes were planned. 

She said staff would like the council to reinstate the NEU representative and conduct an independent investigation. 

“I think they are just hoping we will go away and stop protesting," she said.

“When is the council going to intervene and mediate, or sit down and actually contact teachers, because they haven’t done so."

A petition by the teaching union has now gathered 700 signatures.

A spokesperson for the school previously told the Recorder the industrial action involves only a "small minority" of staff: “The safety and education of children are our topmost priorities, particularly in view of all the disruption to education as a result of Covid."

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