Teaching union members strike over safety fears

Teaching union members are demanding a “knife audit” at a Birmingham secondary school after beginning two days of strike action over poor pupil behaviour.

Around 20 members of the NASUWT at Starbank School’s Hob Moor Road site joined in industrial action on Thursday to express their concern over pupil “indiscipline” and measures to safeguard staff.

A second strike day is planned for next Wednesday after reports that a 12in knife was brought into the school, while a member of staff is said to have been assaulted.

The school, rated outstanding by Ofsted in May 2012, is also reported to have a problem with fighting each Thursday.

Staff outside Starbank School in Hob Moor Road, Birmingham, during a strike over concerns for staff and pupil safety. (Credit: NASUWT/PA)
Staff outside Starbank School in Hob Moor Road, Birmingham, during a strike over concerns for staff and pupil safety. (Credit: NASUWT/PA)

The NASUWT says the walkout is the result of the failure of the employer to address its members’ concerns over pupil behaviour.

Union officials are understood to have asked the school’s senior leadership team for an audit of all incidents involving knives over the past 12 months, including any seizures of weapons.

NASUWT regional organiser Ben Cochrane said: “Staff don’t feel that the issues are being dealt with effectively – they want a safe working environment for both themselves and the pupils.”

Chris Keates, the union’s general secretary, said: “Strike action is a last resort for dedicated and committed teachers but there has been a failure by the employer to take seriously their professional concerns over pupil indiscipline.

“Teachers are entitled to a safe working environment and employers have a legal duty of care for their employees.

“The NASUWT remains committed to engaging with the employer to resolve this dispute and avoid further industrial action, but the employer needs to take the concerns of the teachers seriously.”

Paul Nesbitt, NASUWT national executive member for the West Midlands, said: “We have been negotiating for some time with the employer over the issues relating to pupil behaviour, and while new policies have been introduced by the school, sufficient practical steps have not been taken to ensure poor behaviour is addressed and that teachers are supported in maintaining good order in the classroom.

“The NASUWT regrets any disruption caused by the strike action to pupils and parents, but the lack of effective action by the employer means we have been left with little choice but to call this strike action.”

Birmingham City Council said talks were ongoing with unions.

The local authority said: “While strike action will be taking place on Thursday, the school will remain open to all pupils and suitable provision has been made to ensure that lessons will continue.”

The National Education Union (NEU) said its members at Starbank had suspended action planned for Thursday after “very significant” progress was made on issues of concern.

Shirley Perry, Birmingham NEU deputy general secretary, said: “Over recent weeks we have worked very hard with management at the school to resolve the serious concerns of our members regarding the aggressive behaviour of some pupils towards staff which has, on occasion, resulted in our members being assaulted.

“As a result of professional dialogue and skilled negotiations with the school all of the demands of NEU members have been met.”