Wolverhampton school staff set for three-day strike over safety concerns

Staff at a troubled Wolverhampton school are set to go on strike next week over concerns about workload and safety.

St Peter's Collegiate School in Wolverhampton
St Peter's Collegiate School in Wolverhampton

Union members are planning a walkout at St Peter's Collegiate School in Compton, with staff said to feel "unsafe" under the current regime.

Concerns have also been raised over a lack of consultation with staff over the future of the school, which has been mired in turmoil for the past two years and was slammed by Ofsted in October for "serious lapses" in safeguarding procedures.

A three-day strike is planned to start on April 20, by which time pupils will have returned to school after the Easter holidays.

A source told the Express & Star: "Staff don't feel safe and they don't feel they are being consulted."

Paul Nesbitt, national executive member for Wolverhampton of teachers' union NASUWT, said the strike was a "last resort" that was necessary as school leaders had failed to address staff concerns.

He said the dispute centred around issues including "adverse management practices" including workload, and a "failure to consult".

There were also health and safety concerns over asbestos and fire safety, with the union still waiting for confirmation that the school's fire alarm system was "fully operational".

Mr Nesbitt said staff initially raised concerns in October "but nothing was acted upon", prompting the union to get involved in a bid to end the stand-off.

"Whilst we accept some elements have been improved through the external intervention we asked for, all teachers should have expected to have their health and safety issues addressed immediately for the safety of all when they were initially raised," he said.

"More importantly all their concerns should have been addressed and in doing this, the school would not have found itself in this position.

Patient

"The NASUWT urges the employer to act on what we have suggested to resolve the dispute. We did not want to be taking strike action, or indeed any industrial action, at this time in particular.

"This is not what our members wanted nor ever thought it would have come to. They have been extremely patient with the school leadership and given them time to make the appropriate changes.

"NASUWT will continue to work with the school in an attempt to get the changes that members are seeking from the existing school leadership team to demonstrate an improved approach in their management style."

St Peter's is overseen by the Lichfield Diocese. It is due to be officially taken over by the diocese's newly formed Three Spires Multi-Academy Trust on May 1. Current headteacher Jonathan Arnold took over in September 2020.

In a letter to parents, Mr Arnold said: "The governors, the diocese and I are very disappointed that some of the teachers have taken this decision, especially on the back of a year in which children’s education has been so badly disrupted already."

A two-day strike had been planned before Easter but was cancelled for talks to take place.

A spokesperson for Lichfield Diocesan Board of Education said: "The majority of staff who are not taking part in the planned action will remain in school so that students can continue to learn in a safe environment and do not have their education disrupted.

Compliant

"We would like to thank students, parents and the community for their support in recent months as the school prepares to transition into our new Three Spires Multi-Academy Trust.

"Three Spires Trust has worked closely with the school to address all concerns raised, including ensuring that the school is fully compliant with health and safety regulations."

Brenda Wile, Wolverhampton Council's deputy director of education, said: "The council has worked closely with the school and the trade union over recent weeks to encourage transparent discussions around the issues that have come to light and we are keen to provide support to the school and the workforce to enable a positive resolution to be reached, including improved communications between the leadership and governance of the school and the workforce.

"The school is working hard to mitigate the impact of the strike action on the students and talks are continuing between the parties.

"The council is also continuing to assist with these endeavours prioritising the needs of the children and young people on roll at the school."

It comes after a period of turmoil for the school starting in early 2019, which saw school chaplain Reverend David Weller having his contract terminated following a complaint, and former headteacher David Lewis suspended.

The reasons for their departures has never been made public, with the diocese saying only that the decisions were not linked.

Last October Ofsted flagged up "serious concerns" about safeguarding procedures at the school, which inspectors said could have put pupils "at risk".

St Peter's is in line for a multi-million pound rebuild under plans announced by the Department for Education earlier this year.

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