Teachers strike over pupils' discipline

Teachers at a troubled high school said they were 'delighted' today after starting a one-day strike over bad behaviour by children and 'poor treatment' from bosses.

Staff at Darwen Vale High School in Darwen, Lancashire, say they are angry over a lack of backing from the head, Hilary Torpey, and other management at the school when they confront unruly children.



The unusual move - teachers have gone on strike over pay and conditions before but rarely over school discipline - comes after Education Secretary Michael Gove signalled a new crackdown on discipline in the classroom.



Around 70 teachers with placards picketed the school gates today, cheering the occasional hooting of horns in support from passing motorists.



Simon Jones, a local National Union of Teachers (NUT) official manning the picket line, said: "We are delighted with the turnout and the support we are receiving.



"This is not a strike against pupils. It is about management, and management failure to support staff in dealing with challenging behaviour.



"No one wants to demonise the children here, they are no better or no worse than any other.



"The biggest difference between this school and other schools is the management failure to support staff."





The new head, believed to earn between £80,000 and £100,000 a year, was at her desk in the school today, but it was a free day for the 1,100 pupils.



Members of both the NUT and National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) had voted overwhelmingly for the one-day strike action.



The action comes after what unions claim are months of complaints from members about both the pupils and the school management's way of dealing with teachers who have to enforce discipline in the classroom.



Unions say complaints from members at the school include teachers being pushed, shoved and sworn at, and some pupils filming staff on mobile phones and clips being posted on Facebook.



There have also been problems of cyberbullying and pornography.



But when teachers confiscated pupils' phones, they have then been returned by management, leaving staff "totally undermined", it is claimed.



And since last September, when the new head was appointed, five teachers have been suspended, according to staff at the school.



They claim some children have realised that if they are disciplined, they can make a complaint about a teacher's behaviour to get the member of staff suspended.



Mr Jones said: "A really serious part of this is a minority of pupils have got into the habit of making false allegations.



"The head has proven this time and time again, with a number of staff suspended for all sorts of reasons.



"On the one hand, she is draconian with staff, and, on the other, I would not use the words namby pamby but inconsistent with pupils.



"There is a lack of clarity. I think there is a philosophy of not wanting to suspend."



Unions say they have been forced to take strike action because previous complaints, starting before Christmas, to the head and school management have fallen on deaf ears.



But Harry Devonport, director of education at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, suggested the teachers had been hasty in going out on strike.



"I am very disappointed that, so quickly, teachers have felt the need to take strike action," he said.



"There has only been two meetings to discuss this.



"I am saying we have got to this position very quickly without a clear understanding of what the concerns are about.



"The council is working hard to bring the leadership of the school, together with the unions, to clarify what needs to be done."



In its latest Ofsted inspection last June, Darwen Vale was rated a good school where pupils' behaviour was given a good rating.



The original Darwen Vale High School is being rebuilt under the Building Schools for the Future programme.



Currently the 1,100 pupils are being housed temporarily in the empty buildings of a former local school, which had a capacity of only 800.



The new £18 million Darwen Vale school is scheduled to reopen in September 2012.



Unions say the looming Easter holidays, starting on Friday, will give more time for the issue to be resolved.



They want the head, governors and local council to come up with a "robust behaviour management policy" and give teachers the freedom to implement it.



Otherwise union officials warn more strike action could not be ruled out.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
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

Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Practitioner - Faringdon

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunity for you to jo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Developer - Cirencester - £29,000

£25000 - £29000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have be...

Recruitment Genius: Primary School Sports Coach

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Calling all talented Level 2 qu...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us