NUT strikes: Talks in ‘jeopardy’ after headteachers’ letter

PUBLISHED: 16:21 13 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:21 13 November 2014

Niall O'Connor, deputy branch secretary of Haringey NUT. Picture: Polly Hancock

Niall O'Connor, deputy branch secretary of Haringey NUT. Picture: Polly Hancock


Talks to resolve the school strikes have been put in “jeopardy” after a letter damning letter from the headteachers to the council was made public.

Why are the teachers on strike?

Teachers at Highgate Wood and Fortismere have walked out for three days in the last two weeks, and are threatening to strike for a further three over the next week or so.

The reason for the strike pivots around NUT rep Julie Davies, who was suspended by the council on disciplinary matters in July. Her suspension came a matter of days after the headteachers had written to the council saying they felt they were no longer able to work with her, and refused to sign the agreement to pay for union time as long as she was in post.

NUT members, who have elected Ms Davies as their rep for more than a decade, say it is not up to the headteachers to choose who represents them, and are striking because of the refusal to sign the agreement and the “victimisation” of Ms Davies by the heads.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has reacted angrily after a letter penned by Dame Joan McVittie, headteacher of Woodside High School, in Wood Green, was circulated on Wednesday.

The letter, which was signed by every secondary head in the borough, derided the strike as “retaliation”, and warned the union’s on-going action was “damaging the life chances vulnerable young people” in Haringey.

It went on to say it was not right for children to suffer when the argument was between Haringey’s NUT rep Julie Davies and the council, not the schools.

But the NUT’s London secretary Bob Stapley argued the finger of blame for the strikes should be pointed elsewhere, as he claimed the union had been trying to meet with the council since July 17.

“Dame Joan could have more appropriately asked the leader of the council why there had not been a positive response to the union’s request for talks,” he said.

“The fact is that neither the council nor the borough’s headteachers have been interested in meeting with us with a view to resolving this dispute. Only once we had begun our campaign of rolling strike action has there been any willingness to meet with us.”

This latest move by the headteachers has put a dampener on an attempt by Tony Hartney, Gladesmore head and chairman of the Haringey Schools Forum, to bring an end to the strike.

On Monday, he wrote to the head of the NUT asking for talks between the two sides.

Mr Stapley said he was “grateful” for the move, adding: “It is frankly shameful the council has failed in its responsibility.”

But Niall O’Connor, deputy secretary of Haringey NUT, revealed Dame Joan’s letter had put the idea of talks in the near future into “jeopardy”.

“Members are contacting us about whether we can have meaningful talks in light of this letter,” said Mr O’Connor.

1 comment

  • It is important everything is transparent as it is council taxpayers money being spent. However, pot, kettle and black rings a chord here. One of the criticisms as I understand it against Ms Davies is that she tweeted purportedly as a private resident when her job as a 'council officer' (not the case) does not allow her to. In this context then should Ms McVittie have been using Woodside High Letterhead, which belongs to the school community without their permission to 'represent' one person (herself) from that school and other Head teachers from Haringey (not entitled to be represented under the school letterhead as they have their own.) If Ms McVittie is so concerned with propriety then this be displayed in the use of Woodside High's school stationary.

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    Tracey de Cavaunair

    Monday, November 17, 2014

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