Express & Star

Mixed picture as some schools close in response to strikes while university staff rally

Many schools across the region will close today as staff take part in strike action, while a mass rally is due to take place in Wolverhampton city centre.

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Dr Catherine Lamond and Adrian Priest, of the University and College Union (UCU)

While some schools will shut their doors to pupils in the Black Country and Staffordshire others will be partially open or offer some form of online classes. In Walsall closures include Queen Mary’s High School, in Upper Forster Street; Walsall Academy, in Lichfield Road, Bloxwich; West Walsall E-Act Academy, in Primley Avenue, Alumwell, will be closed for most pupils, but open for GCSE pupils in Year 11.

A Walsall Council spokesman said: “The emerging picture across Walsall appears to be that, of schools the council is aware will be affected, this will be mainly partial closures.”

In Sandwell closures include Phoenix Collegiate, in Clarkes Lane, in West Bromwich. At Sandwell Academy, in Halfords Lane, also in West Bromwich, lessons will run for Years seven, 11 and 13, while pupils in Years eight, nine, 10 and 12, will have online lessons.

Ormiston Community Academy, in Lower City Road, Oldbury, will be partially open with some pupils having lessons online.

In Dudley St James Academy will be open for Years eight, 10 and 11 only, but due to expected staffing levels Year seven and nine pupils learners are to have access to online lessons. A trip to Bletchley Park will go ahead for Year eight pupils.

Families are also urged to check council school closure web pages to information after the National Education Union(NEU) voted for industrial action.

Staffordshire County Council’s education boss Councillor Jonathan Price said: “The decision to close rests with each individual school, where staff will take into account how many people are taking part in strike action and how many pupils they can accommodate. Every school will have their own method of contacting parents and will have already done so, but for an overview, our school closure website will contain details of all the schools who have notified us that they are closed tomorrow, and on the days of future strikes.”

Closures in the county include Codsall Community High School, in Elliotts Lane, Codsall, where lessons will be held online; Norton Canes High School, in Burntwood Road near Cannock will be open only for “vulnerable and critical worker pupils”. E-ACT Academy Trust which operates a number of schools in Walsall said: “Most of our local secondary schools will only partially open.

“We have told our parents and families what will be happening and where schools are partially closed, we will be prioritising students taking exams this year but also pupils in vulnerable categories and those with critical worker parents, for example, NHS workers.

“We are also ensuring that packed lunches are available for those students who usually receive free school meals.”

No schools which come under the Windsor Academy Trust are to close including Windsor High School and Sixth Form, in Richmond Street, Halesowen. Other trust sites are Tenterfields Primary Academy, Manor Way Primary Academy, Colley Lane Primary Academy, all in Halesowen. Other schools include Goldsmith Primary Academy, Rivers Primary School in Blakenall, both in Walsall; Kingswinford Academy in Kingswinford, Great Wyrley Academy, in Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay Academy, in Cheslyn Hay.

Meanwhile chair of the UCU negotiating committee at the University of Wolverhampton Dr Catherine Lamond explained that the union is involved in a national dispute on four fronts over workload, inequality, casualisation, and pay which has been cut by 25 per cent in real terms since 2008.

“Here at the university we were already in dispute with our management because of 138 course closures and staff cuts of 250, all announced without consultation.

“This has been a turbulent time for the university with a high turnover of senior managers – across all levels. We are facing wider problems too, for example we are giving students food parcels to support them. It is fantastic to have support from our students.

“Our members are also struggling with the cost of living crisis. Our human resources department are again asking our members to confirm in advance if they will strike, which we have pointed out they should not do. In UCU 70,000 of us have had enough. The huge raft of strikes is daunting to all of us, but it is a symptom of the sector-wide issues that we cannot continue to accept.

"We will be joined by 300,000 fellow educators from the NEU in their historic industrial action against similar issues with pay and conditions. The government and our employers seem to want to sit it out but we say – sort it out,” Ms Lamond said.

Chris Denson, who is on the national executive for the NEU representing the Midlands, said: “I think, as teachers, we all want to be in the classroom with our children but what we’ve seen for 10 years now is pay being eroded and the conditions of our schools being eroded.

“The amount of funding into schools has gone and schools are struggling to get enough books, and even glue sticks and other items.”

Mr Denson added: “We’re standing up to defend the education system and our children are a part of that. We see the damage being done daily and the desperation schools face when they can’t find enough qualified teachers to teach because of the pay. We’re saying ‘enough is enough’ – we need better pay for teachers, more funding for schools so children get the education they deserve.”