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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power