STRIKES at a school which has suffered eight in two months have been suspended by members of the National Union of Teachers to support pupils through the exam period.
Martin Powell-Davies, the NUT London Regional Secretary announced that its union members at Forest Hill School have voted to withdraw the strike action, which included two further days next week, until Thursday June 15.
The union is maintaining its position that a £1.3m cut to the staffing budget will severly damage the school in Dacre Road and is calling on Lewisham council to step in and help financially similar to the way Greenwich council has recently helped to resolve financial challenges at Plumstead Manor School.
Parents have spoken out to express worries over the education and welfare of the children of the school from the eight strike days over the issues since March. There are concerns that the school has become “the piggy in the middle” of “a stand off” between the unions and the council.
Many parents who are supportive of the unions action are organising a protest outside Catford Town Hall on Monday evening in a bid to get the council to help the school financially.
Mum Lynley Oram told SLP: “I am among the parents who support the union’s continuing action. I don’t like the fact there has been eight strike days but the union is battling to save the school which I do agree with. The effect of the cuts to staff posts will be horrendous and parents are worried future cuts to support staff could jeopardise the safety of their boys. We are very angry with the council for not stepping up to help the school and heartbroken really because Forest Hill is a hugely successful school where the attainment is good. But unless the council helps as other councils have around London than our children will not be getting the education they could have had. Like a lot of parents I am also upset that the school and the council are not talking to us about what is going on.”
Mum Zoe Camenzuli, said: “There are a lot of parents like me on the picket lines supporting the union. I don’t like having the strike days but I don’t know what the option is to prevent the cuts from happening. We are also very worried as the school is not telling us what is really going on. We got a letter from the school saying there would be no changes but we have noticed them already. I am particularly concerned about the impact of cuts to staff on the boys pastoral care which is good at the school. Its really important that children feel safe at school otherwise their learning will be badly impacted. It appears that the mentor roles have gone, there is a big loss of teaching assistants and mid day supervisors. I am also worried about the restructuring of the performance department which was one of the school’s strengths.”
Mr Powell-Davies, said: “The NUT, with the support of the Forest Hill Parents’ Action Group, has spent the last two months campaigning, leafleting, lobbying councillors, holding rallies and meetings, and also having to take eight days of strike action. All of this has been done to try and persuade Lewisham Council to recognise the damage that £1.3 million of staffing cuts is going to do to Forest Hill School and to act to prevent that damage. As a consequence nearly 40 posts will be being cut from the school from September cutting vital support for Forest Hill students.”
Head teacher Mike Sullivan told SLP he and the governors are working hard to address the school’s substantial budget deficit.
He said: “We have formulated a reorganised school structure for next academic year which has kept a high quality of student experience at its core. NUT members are striking because of issues around teacher workload in our reorganised structure. It has been necessary for financial reasons to increase the time that teachers spend teaching classes, but this is within statutory limits.”
He said to meet the unions demands extra teachers would need to be employed “at a cost of at least £200,000 per annum.”