Nine schools in Bolton to close in one-day strike next week
Updated 4:38pm Tuesday 18th March 2014 in News
EIGHT schools in Bolton have confirmed they will be shut or partially closed to pupils when teachers stage a mass walkout in protest at changes in working conditions.
Other schools are hoping to make a decision later this week and letters will be sent out to parents.
Members of the National Union of Teachers will hold the national strike on Wednesday, March 26, as part of a long-running dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.
So far, Smithills Academy, Haslam Park Primary in Deane, Blackshaw Primary in Bradley Fold, St William’s CE Primary in Great Lever, St Michael CE Primary in Great Lever and Castle Hill Primary in Tonge Moor will be completely closed.
In addition, Canon Slade School in Bradshaw Brow and St George CE Primary in Westhougton will all be partially closed.
Julia Simpkins, secretary of the Bolton-branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “This strike is about teachers and children.
“Teachers’ workload is increasing and we are being kept away from the classroom. This is not good for students.
“All we want to do is teach rather than complete paperwork, which is mainly for Ofsted, which is more interested in that than teaching.”
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The walkout is the second in less than a year.
Teachers — members of the NUT and the NASUWT, National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers — at more than 120 schools in Bolton became the first in the country to strike in protest over pay, pensions and conditions last June as part of a rolling programme of regional strikes.
A strike was called off in November but a stalemate situation has meant the NUT announced another strike last month.
Simon Bramwell, headteacher of SS Simon and Jude’s CE Primary School in Great Lever, said: “Managing a school in a strike is far from simple.
“We would not cover striking colleagues so as a minimum those classes that should be being taught for all or part of the day by striking staff would need to stay at home.
“The difficulty comes when staff do not indicate whether or not they intend to strike, or if the particular school is picketed, whether of not staff will cross picket lines. This creates uncertainty and potential health and safety issues.
“As a headteacher I need to know whether I have enough staff in school to keep the children safe.
"I know many fellow heads, whilst sympathetic to the general tenor of the action, would want to provide uninterrupted education for the pupils in their charge, however if the majority of your staff are going to be missing there is a balance of risks assessment that needs to be conducted on a school by school basis.”
Mr Bramwell, former President of the National Association of headteachers in Bolton added: "The other obligation is to our parents.
"School strike action hits our parents hard as they struggle to arrange last minute child care.
"We therefore need to give them as much notice as possible which may mean heads making a decision on class or school closures before full facts are known.
“I feel disappointed that the proposed action could not have been timed for after pupils sit their SATs in May.
“Even if a school does close to children, non-striking staff need to attend work and be given other duties.
"I would always urge any group to try and resolve their differences with the employers, in such a way that it doesn’t impact negatively on children and parents."
For the first time Bolton Council will not be publishing a list of schools shut or partially closed before the strike.
A council spokesman said: “Headteachers and school governors are responsible for making local decisions about how to respond to industrial action.
“They will make a judgement on whether their school should either fully or partly close based on how many staff are likely to be on strike and whether they are able to provide a safe learning environment for pupils.
“Schools are best placed to inform children and parents about their plans to close and we have asked that they be notified as soon as possible through their usual school communication channels."
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