Teachers at flagship Islington free school vote to strike over new 'zero hour' job terms

Education Editor

Teachers at one of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s flagship free schools are staging a series of walkouts from Thursday over what they see as an attempt to introduce “zero-hour” contracts at their school.

The action, to be taken at the STEM Academy Tech City in Islington, north London - is the first strike action of its kind at any of the country’s 174 free schools.

The school provides specialist education in the so-called "STEM" subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which are considered vital for the future of the nation’s economy. It opened last September and is understood at present to have about 150 sixth-formers on its books. About 10 teachers at the school are NUT members.

Teachers at the school asked to be balloted by their union, the National Union of Teachers, after their employers said there would be “legal consequences” if they failed to sign a new contract before Christmas.

Included in it was a paragraph which stated: “The school reserves the right to temporarily lay you off from work without normal contractual pay or to reduce your normal working hours and reduce your pay proportionately. The school will give you as much notice as it can reasonably give of its need to take such action.”

Union leaders argue this is tantamount to a zero-hours contract and have expressed fears that other schools might follow suit in trying to introduce similar clauses unless the move by STEM Academy is resisted.

Amongst other items in the contract that the union opposes are a limit of three weeks paid sick leave per year, and the statutory minimum maternity leave entitlement.

The union will stage its first strike on Thursday, to be followed by two days of strike action next week and three days the following week. It says the school has also refused to grant it union recognition.

The academy's governing body is chaired by Professor Tony Sewell, who was recently appointed by London Mayor Boris Johnson to head an inquiry into education in London, and is sponsored by a not-for-profit company, the Skills and Development Agency.

Ken Muller, assistant secretary of Islington NUT, said: “These deplorable terms and conditions not only show callous disregard for staff at STEM, they also demonstrate scant respect for students at the academy - or their parents. Aren’t STEM students entitled to be taught by decently-treated, properly paid teachers who feel secure and valued in their jobs? Or are they only entitled to education on the cheap?”

A statement from the union added: “Teachers at STEM have only reluctantly decided to take this action. Of course, they would rather be teaching their students rather than going on strike. However, they feel they have been given no choice by management’s refusal to enter into serious negotiations with their union representatives about their full justified concerns.”

The academy describes itself as “London’s first sixth-form college to specialise in science, technology, engineering and maths, and we are offer in an exciting and unique academic and vocational education for students with a passion for, and a desire to, pursue a career in STEM”.

Meanwhile, university academics and support staff have announced plans for a third national walkout in a bitter row over pay.

The unions have rejected a one per cent pay offer and plan to take the action on February 6amidst growing resentment of pay awards to vice-chancellors in Russell Group universities averaging 7.8 per cent.

University employers said they were disappointed further strike action had been called and that there was “low to no support” for the walkout.

John O’Shea, principal of the STEM 6 Academy, said the union’s interpretation of the contract was “inaccurate”, adding: “The contracts offered are not ‘zero hours’ as had been suggested but permanent contracts. The contract also makes clear that additional sick leave is available if necessary beyond three weeks in a year.

“As a new school we do not have any reserves to draw on in case of unexpected costs and the governing body has been prudent to ensure our long term financial viability and sustainability. With this in mind, our employment contracts have been drawn up appropriately to safeguard the school’s finances as well as tax-payers’ money.”

He added: “We take seriously all feedback we receive from members of our staff relating to employment conditions and have been very keen to understand any recent concerns around employment contracts,”

The academy had agreed to look into all the points that had been raised.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Cover Supervisor for school in Leeds

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education are looking fo...

BTEC / A Level Business StudiesTeacher (Full time)

£100 - £160 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: BTEC and...

Maths Intervention / Learning Mentor

£60 - £80 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: We are loo...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day + Flexible with benefits: Randstad Education Group: Key St...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London