St Ivo Academy: Teachers to go on strike over 'draconian' rules at Cambridgeshire school

St Ivo school pupils.
Credit: ITV News Anglia
Pupils have told ITV News of life under the new discipline rules. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Teachers are to strike over "draconian" behaviour policies they are being asked to enforce by school bosses.

The NASUWT teaching union said staff at St Ivo Academy in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, are being asked to “enforce questionable rules that undermine their authority in the classroom”.

Members are due to begin five days of strike action on Wednesday after talks broke down.

The school is part of Astrea Academy Trust, which said St Ivo will stay open on strike days and it will do “everything we can” to limit disruption to pupils.

Teachers have previously told ITV News Anglia of their concerns at the behaviour policies the trust has imposed, while parents say the measures are having a detrimental impact on children, who have been left "terrified".

They claim children have wet themselves and spent weekends dreading the return to the classroom.

A union source said the measures include that pupils who do not have a pen or other equipment are given an automatic detention, and that pupils are “not being allowed to go to the toilet”. They said that “all pupils have to line up in rows on the tennis courts for their morning address”.

The source said another behaviour policy that the NASUWT takes issue with is that there must be “silence at all times in the corridor and silence in classrooms unless given permission to speak”.

Teachers will walk out at St Ivo Academy for five days. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “No behaviour policy can operate effectively without the support of teachers and school staff who are expected to apply it.

“Employers need to respect teachers’ professional judgement and autonomy.

“Behaviour policies must encourage positive behaviours and not detract from effective teaching and learning.

“Yet members at St Ivo’s Academy feel that the draconian nature of Astrea’s behaviour policies limit their ability to teach.

“Teachers need policies that empower them, but instead they are being asked to enforce questionable rules that undermine their authority in the classroom.

“We once again ask Astrea to review its behaviour policies in consultation with the NASUWT and to discontinue the imposition of procedures that are damaging and unworkable.”

Mark Burns, NASUWT national executive member for Cambridgeshire, said members had been “left with no alternative but to move to strike action”.

“Despite some initial progress in talks, since we declared our dispute Astrea have imposed new policies around the monitoring of teachers’ performance, including no-notice observations which were not consulted on and which are having a significantly detrimental impact on members,” he said.

“Our members are concerned that this pattern of behaviour by Astrea management, designed to erode the terms and conditions of teachers and reduce their professional autonomy, will continue and escalate.”

A spokesperson for Astrea said: “Obviously it’s disappointing news that the strike action is going ahead.

“We believed there were three remaining issues of contention, covering staff development, a dress code for staff and limiting the number of after school meetings to one per week.

“Last Friday, we agreed to further consultation and engagement on the three outstanding areas raised by the unions.

“Our doors remain open for further discussion, as was agreed last week.

“In the meantime, St Ivo will open as normal on strike days and we will do everything we can to ensure our students experience as little disruption as possible.”

What does the school say about its behaviour policy?

Astrea said its behaviour policy “very much aligns with the NASUWT’s published guidance, which focuses on the importance of children being able to learn free from disruption, and we will continue to work to ensure this is the case”.

Responding to the union’s claims about rules at the school, the Astrea spokesperson said: “It is not true that pupils are automatically given a detention for forgetting a pen – they are given a reminder to bring this in so that they are ready and equipped to learn.

“However, repeatedly not having a pen will result in a detention.

“In the mornings, students line up in their year groups for the morning welcome in which they receive messages for the day ahead, including celebrating students’ successes, house points and sport wins.

“This is a normal part of school life in many schools.

“We have quiet corridors, not silent corridors and our classrooms are vibrant places of learning.

“In lesson time, like other schools across the country, students are expected to work silently for independent work and when they need to listen to the teacher, but anyone visiting the school will see that our classrooms are interactive, purposeful places of learning.

“We encourage pupils to use the toilets at break time or during lunch, or quickly between lessons so that learning is not disrupted.

“Any child that has a medical need has a toilet pass and students who need to use the toilet are allowed to do so.”

Strike action at the school is due to take place on 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 November.

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