Strike-hit head offers talks

Mick Burrows
Mick Burrows

WIGAN school bosses accused its striking teachers of refusing an olive branch.

Members of the borough’s biggest classroom union have started six different days of walkouts at St Jude’s Roman Catholic Primary in an official dispute about working practices.

But its head and chairman of the board of governors today claimed that the NAS/UWT had not responded to its repeated approaches for talks to reach a possible settlement.

However, the union has yet to react to management’s new counter claims.

Head Steve Barrand - speaking jointly on behalf of the governors - said that it remained “immensely grateful” for the support of none-striking staff, pupils and parents in keeping the Worsley Mesnes school open on strike days.

The union has consistently refused to say how many members it has at St Judes but insists they are a “significant majority”.

Mr Barrand said: “The governing body and I are disappointed and at a loss to understand why this action has gone ahead in the light of the fact that the school has offered to meet with the NAS/UWT later this week. 

“This is now the fourth time that the school has tried to make arrangements to meet with the NAS/UWT in order to discuss their concerns.

“We have also made a commitment to engage the support of ACAS.

“To date we have not received a response to our offer from the NAS/UWT and we have asked the union to suspend their action while we continue to talk to them.

“But the NAS/UWT have, however, refused all requests.”

He added that all schools across the country and in Wigan have been required to bring in new pay and appraisal policies.

And the Keates Avenue school had adopted the policy, like many other schools within the borough developed by the local authority.

And all the teaching unions had been fully consulted.

Mr Barrand said: “We believe the policy provides a fair, reasonable and supportive process for managing pay progression and the performance management of teachers in Wigan schools.

“We all share the ambition to make St Jude’s an outstanding school and cannot understand why the school has been singled out for such disproportionate industrial action to promote its on­going dispute with the Secretary of State without regard for the damage it can cause to pupils and to the image of the teaching profession.

“We hope the NAS/UWT will reconsider their decision and call off further planned strikes and accept the offer which has been made to discuss things further.”

Mr Barrand pledged that even if more strike action was to go ahead it, parents had the school’s reassurance that it would “do everything” it is legally able to do to remain open and “keep the children safe” in order to minimise disruption to its pupils.

And it was “sad” that a number of parents felt that they could not bring pupils into school during the strike days “due to the feelings of intimidation” when they saw the NAS/UWT picket 

He concluded: “Their action causes significant disruption to families as well as potential damage to pupil outcomes and the image of the profession.”

Despite attempts by the Wigan Evening Post, the union have yet to publicly respond to management’s