Isle of Sheppey teachers on strike after pupils disrupt lessons with threats and violence

  • ITV News Meridian's Megan Samrai has been at the picket line

Teachers on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent have gone on strike today (Wednesday 22 November) after threats and violence from pupils have made the school "unsafe".

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) have formed picket lines at both sites of the Oasis Academy in Sheerness.

The strike has been called after negotiations over the safe management of poor pupil behaviour, and staff and pupil safety, failed to meet member demands.

Teachers and educators at the school have been calling for fixed exclusion tariffs of 10 days for assaults or threats of assaults against staff and pupils.

It follows numerous incidences of pupil threats and violence.

One teacher said the 'majority of the students that we teach are amazing, they are phenomenal humans'. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Tim Dams, regional development officer at the NEU, says the “work place is no longer safe”.

Teacher and NEU rep, Claire Oosthuizen, has been on the picket line today and says the decision to strike was not one taken lightly.

She said staff are working "under very challenging conditions where pretty extreme behaviours have not been dealt with both inside our classrooms and outside".

She added: "It’s got to the point where many staff here now don’t feel as if they’re safe teaching within their own rooms and it’s having a serious impact on staff with their wellbeing, their ability to teach and the standards of teaching and learning within our school.”

  • Claire Oosthuizen has been on the picket line today

However, she did say that the "majority of the students that we teach are amazing, they are phenomenal humans".

Nick Childs, Senior Regional Officer, NEU, added: “Behaviour at the school is currently completely unacceptable. Lessons are regularly disturbed and staff safety and wellbeing put at risk.

"A zero-tolerance approach must be introduced including a fixed exclusion tariff for assaults and threats of violence against staff and pupils.

“School should be a safe space for learning and until this is the case at Oasis Sheppey Academy our dispute shall remain unresolved."

He explained strike action is “unavoidable", adding: "The Oasis Trust have been aware of staff safety concerns for many months and the Union has been clear about the decisive action required to address the unacceptable working and learning environment.

"Whilst some progress has been made in negotiations in recent days this is too little, too late for our members."

Ms Oosthuizen is calling for "proper behaviour management policies to be put in place to make sure that teaching and learning is protected in the class for both staff and pupils alike".

A spokesperson for the Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey said: "Providing a high-quality education for every student is always our top priority, and during this industrial action we will be offering online study materials to all students to minimise the disruption.

"We will also be offering on campus support to students with specific needs.

"Whilst this is a scenario that nobody wants, we have had positive discussions with the union, and we are confident that we have made significant progress.

"We remain committed to working positively with staff representatives to try and avoid any future disruption, and to ensure that Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey is a school where everybody can thrive."

Further strike days have been planned for next week and in December.

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