Sick pay strike begins at high school

Strike at Redbridge High School

A strike involving teachers and support workers at Beal High School in Redbridge began yesterday (Thursday, March 25). - Credit: Glenn Kelly - London NEU

Teachers and support workers at Beal High School have taken to the picket line as a dispute about sickness pay rumbles on. 

On March 17, the Recorder reported that members of the National Education Union (NEU) had voted in favour of six days of strike action, amid claims the school is refusing to renegotiate a sickness pay policy.

The first of these took place yesterday (Thursday, March 25), after which NEU regional officer Glenn Kelly told the Recorder: "Due to the school's refusal to try and resolve the strike, nearly 2000 pupils had to stay at home for remote learning as over a hundred teachers walked out."

Strike at Redbridge High School on March 25

Executive principal of Beal High School, Kathryn Burns, said 'a substantial majority' of staff did not take part in the March 25 strike. - Credit: Glenn Kelly - London NEU

Kathryn Burns, Beacon Academy Trust CEO and executive principal at the school, countered this, claiming that "a substantial majority" of staff did not take part and attended work as normal.

Ms Burns continued: "All sixth formers were in attendance on site along with vulnerable learners and children of key workers. As a precaution the trust provided remote learning to other year groups - significant efforts were made to ensure that disruption to education was kept to an absolute minimum.   

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"It was deeply regrettable to hear reports of union officials presenting the fact that some year groups had been unable to attend school as a sign of successful strike action."

Strike at Redbridge High School March 25

Glenn Kelly from the London regional office of the NEU confirmed that the second round of strike action is due to take place on April 28 and 29. - Credit: Glenn Kelly - London NEU

The dispute centres on the union's claim that teachers and support staff employed by the Redbridge school after 2016 are not entitled to a nationally-agreed sick pay scheme.

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This runs counter to the policy at most schools in the borough, it argues, with industrial action taken as a result.

The Beacon Academy Trust - which runs the school - denied this on March 17, saying that there is one sickness pay policy for all staff.

Strike at Redbridge High School March 25

The strike was in response to an ongoing dispute over the alleged refusal of Beal High School to renegotiate its sickness pay policy. - Credit: Glenn Kelly - London NEU

Speaking after the first day of action, Mr Kelly said: "The picket line was big and determined that they would not allow the sick pay injustice to continue."

Ms Burns said: "The health emergency has already caused significant disruption to our learners’ education this year - to have further disruption caused to young lives in the name of a poorly defined trade dispute is, in our view, unforgivable.   

"We can only apologise to our students and their parents for the disruption caused."

A second round of strike action will take place on April 28 and 29. 

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