Picketing parents call for reinstatement of barred teachers

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The Independent Online

Parents and pupils joined teachers to demonstrate at a primary school yesterday in support of two teachers suspended eight weeks ago.

Kate Andrews and Sharon Tyler are accused of trying to undermine Carol Joynson, the headteacher at Hendre Infants in Caerphilly, on the first day of term. Staff at the 181-pupil school had voted unanimously for a one-day strike unless their two colleagues were allowed to return to the classroom.

Mrs Andrews has worked at the school since 1972 as a nursery teacher. Mrs Tyler joined four years ago as a specialist working with children with hearing impairments. Yesterday, about 40 teachers, parents and pupils gathered at the school to call for their reinstatement. Parents said their children's education had suffered because of the suspensions.

Darren Jones, whose four-year-old daughter, Cora May, is a pupil at the school's hearing impaired unit, said she was suffering because of the suspension of Mrs Tyler, who taught her sign language. Standing outside with a placard, he said: "I feel disgusted that it has gone on so long and the teachers aren't back yet.

"Cora used to come home from school and show us new sign language she had learnt ... Now she just sits in front of the telly and she's repeating stuff that she's done last year."

Pupils had been told to stay at home because the school was shut for the day by the strike. No one tried to cross the picket line.

The National Union of Teachers is also threatening to take the school governors to the High Court to force them to reinstate the teachers. They argue the suspension was unlawful because the allegations did not amount to gross misconduct or threats to children. Officials also complain they have not been given sufficient information about the allegations.

Gethin Lewis, secretary of the Welsh NUT, said: "This situation is without parallel in Wales and we have been forced to take this action as a last resort." The NUT and the public-service union Unison must give another seven days' notice of further strike action.