Covid-19: Union prepares school staff in Sutton for strike

Teachers and support staff at Barrow Hedges school in Sutton are set to strike for six days.

The National Education Union (NEU) members voted for strike action in response to the school’s decision to not allow staff to work from home, if their own child must self-isolate due to an outbreak of Covid in their child’s school once full lockdown is over.

A NEU spokesperson says that staff would be forced to take unpaid leave if they were required to be at home for the statutory ten days putting them in “severe hardship”.

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Cirrus Primary Academy Trust said it is “not possible” for teachers to work from home once the school is fully reopened – but during periods of partial opening, some staff have been able to request to work from home with full pay. 

The spokesperson said the school’s discretionary leave policy has been adjusted, to allow staff to take their annual five-day allowance in one block to help “mitigate any financial difficulties.”

They added: “Where staff are required to self-isolate due to displaying symptoms of Covid-19 or because they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, they are in receipt of full pay. 

“Our main priority is to safeguard the wellbeing of our staff and children at a time that is already extremely challenging. 

“The Trust has continued to engage with staff and the NEU regarding the Trust policy and is saddened that the NEU feel this action is justified.”

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NEU has slammed the school’s response and said that the request is fair, affordable and reasonable.

Glenn Kelly Regional officer for the NEU said: “All staff are asking is that if the case arises for the few who have younger children who can’t be left alone that they can work from home for the ten-day isolation period we do not believe that this is too much to ask.

“There is no additional cost to the school as they are already budgeting for all staff salaries.

“How is it safeguarding the wellbeing of staff when staff are being put in a position as one staff member described: ‘what you are asking me to do is either leave my child at home alone or not pay my rent’. 

“Since December the union has been asking to meet the Trust to seek to resolve the situation, a request that continues to be ignored to this date. 

“Unfortunately It looks as though the CEO is content with a six-day strike taking place.”

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