Row over blade expulsion could lead to strike ballot at Long Stratton High School

Long Stratton High School.

Long Stratton High School. - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

Teachers embroiled in a row with governors over the fate of a pupil who brought a blade into school will tomorrow hold a crisis meeting with union officials that could trigger a ballot over strike action.

Staff at Long Stratton High School last month sent a formal letter to governors complaining about their decision to overturn headteacher John Wilson's decision to permanently exclude a boy who brought what police described as a 'bladed article' onto school premises in November.

Their letter was supported by the NUT, NASUWT, ATL and Unison unions.

The EDP understands the teenager, who received a youth conditional caution from police shortly before the New Year, had hidden the object in a hollowed-out book.

The school, which has about 600 pupils, said it could not comment on issues involving individual pupils, but stressed that the wellbeing and safety of pupils, staff and parents was its top priority.

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Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for Norfolk NUT, said: 'Staff were notified that a solution to the situation had been organised, but then they were informed on Friday that this had fallen through, leaving them with no option but to raise the issue of balloting on striking.'

That option will be discussed at the meeting tomorrow, which could launch the formal process to ballot on industrial action.

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Mr Lyons added: 'Teachers are still not happy that a valid decision made by the headteacher to exclude has been overturned by the governors without consultation with the teachers who feel at risk.

'They feel that their safety is not being put first.'

He said that, if strike action was approved, there were a range of possibilities about the form it could take, including a 'full-on strike' or refusing to teach the individual pupil.

Kevin Worsley, who represents Long Stratton on South Norfolk Council, said that 'probably the facts speak for themselves'.

He added: 'The teachers in their professional wisdom are probably the closest people to know what's best and not best for the individuals involved.

'If the only way they can show their strength is through union action because they are not being listened to by the chair of governors, it's probably the only way they can do it.'

He added that it was important to bear in mind the best interests of the teenager as well.

Des Fulcher, who also represents the area on South Norfolk Council, said he could understand the concerns of teachers and some parents, but he did not think strike action was the answer.

Colin Collis, of the NASUWT teaching union, said he would attend tomorrow's meeting, and added: 'If, having spoken to the members, there's a belief that there has not been proper consideration of their health, safety and welfare, then obviously one of the options open to us is to ballot our members on refusing to teach this particular student.'

Paul McLaughlin, senior regional officer for the ATL union, said: 'We are in dialogue with the school with a view to resolving it. It is a very delicate situation and we are aiming to resolve it satisfactorily.'

Bev Foreman, deputy head at Long Stratton High School said: 'We can't discuss issues concerning individual pupils for confidentiality reasons.

'However, I would like to assure everyone that the safety and wellbeing of our pupils, staff and parents is our top priority and we are working hard with everyone to ensure that this continues to be maintained and upheld at our school.'

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