Teachers on picket line

LAST-MINUTE crisis talks could not avert strike action over an academy status bid at Heanor Gate Science College this week.

Lessons for pupils in years seven, eight and nine had to be cancelled as 24 teachers joined a picket line at the Kirkley Drive college for over an hour on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

It marked the start of a difficult week for the ‘outstanding’ Ofsted-rated school, as members of other teaching unions the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) were also due to strike today over national pension reforms.

Staff who are part of The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) say they are opposed to the school becoming an academy as the partly independent schools are not bound by national terms and conditions of service for teachers.

Strike action was averted in March when Heanor Gate governors agreed to postpone making a final decisions on academy status until September. But NASWUT claims the school has now gone back on its word- as a bid has now been submitted to the government.

In eleventh-hour bid to stop the strike on Monday night, governors made an offer to NASUWT saying if the union agreed to halt its opposition to academy plans, then the school would in turn withdraw its bid until September.

But the union’s national executive member for Derbyshire Dave Wilkinson said the offer was ‘unacceptable’.

He said: “The governors wanted the union to lift its opposition to academy conversion as a price for the confirmation of the previous agreement with NASUWT. This is a price which NASUWT members were not prepared to pay.”

The school’s headteacher, Rob Howard defended the board of governors saying, despite already submitting a bid, it is still due to make its final decision on the academy conversion on September 13 as agreed and can withdraw its bid at any time.

Mr Howard said: “I can honestly say I have tried my best to resolve the issue and can only apologise for the disruption caused to staff, parents and students.”

Recent changes to the Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) paid by the government to academy schools mean Heanor Gate will now receive £370,000 less money, which works out at £236 per pupil, per year than previously estimated.

Currently 1,220 schools nationally are in the process of applying or have already converted to academies.