Strike is harming pupils’ life chances, says headteacher
PUBLISHED: 16:30 12 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:30 12 November 2014
The NUT strike is “damaging the life chances of vulnerable young people” in Haringey, the borough’s headteachers have said.
Dame Joan McVittie, Woodside High School’s headteacher, launched a withering attack on the union and its strike in a letter to Haringey’s chief executive and council leader, signed by every one of the borough’s headteachers.
Dame Joan, the former chairman of the Association of College and School Leaders, criticised the union’s decision to target the schools, rather than the council, which was responsible for suspending NUT rep Julie Davies in July.
In particular, she hit out at the NUT’s decision to focus its “retaliation” on Fortismere, in Muswell Hill, and Highgate Wood School, in Crouch End, apparently because their heads were the signatories of a letter to the council.
The letter said headteachers no longer felt able to work with Ms Davies; she was suspended the next week on unrelated matters.
Dame Joan wrote: “I am disgusted by the response of the NUT: instead of negotiating with the employer, it has chosen to strike in selected schools, therefore damaging the life chances of vulnerable young people in this authority.
“It cannot be right that children should be made to pay for a dispute that is essentially between and union official and her employer, the local authority.”
But this stance has already been dismissed by Niall O’Connor, who told the Broadway earlier this week this was an argument with local schools, pointing out the “victimisation” of Ms Davies was related to the headteacher’s letter.
“We accept the power to suspend her is not with the headteachers,” said Mr O’Connor. “So if the schools were to retract that letter and commit to facilities time [the service level agreement], we would not have a dispute with the schools.”
The strike - which made front page news in the Daily Mail - is not entirely derided, with Haringey TUC Secretary Keith Flett coming out in support of Ms Davies and the NUT.
“The principle of solidarity, an injury to one is an injury to all, is a guiding principle of trade unionism and the borough’s trade unionists are right behind the efforts to get Ms Davies reinstated,” he said. “It is up to NUT members and not headteachers or the council who they have to represent them. That seems to us a basic principle of representative democracy.”
And efforts are being made to build bridges between the NUT and the schools.
Haringey Schools’ Forum wrote to the NUT, calling for all parties to work together to end strike action, with chairman Tony Hartney, headteacher at Gladesmore Community School, in Tottenham, proposing setting up an independent process to allow for meaningful negotiations.
He wrote: “I am confident that this represents a way to resolve this situation and I really hope that you and your trade union colleagues are able to agree to this proposal in the positive spirit which it is intended.”
His letter was welcomed by Haringey Council leader Claire Kober, who said: “Haringey has a proud history of championing trade unions and we want all teachers in the borough to continue to have access to appropriate union representation.
“However, the fact is that all council employees are bound by our code of conduct. It is our responsibility to fully investigate any alleged breaches of this code, and it’s important that this process is allowed to run its course.”