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Posted on 7 December 2012 at 15:57 GMT

Sheffield teachers' strike against 'mock Ofsteds'

Alistair Tice
Photo Ralph Dyson

Photo Ralph Dyson   (Click to enlarge)

Over 30 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) took strike action on Thursday 6 December at Westfield Sports College, a secondary school in Sheffield.

The central issue at dispute is the management's insistence in conduct observations in the style of Ofsted, what the teachers are calling "mock Ofsteds".

Initially the Head wanted a "two-day window", meaning that teachers could be observed at any time within a two day period.

This was brought down to a "one-day window", but the NUT has rightly insisted on the implementation of the NUT/NASUWT Joint Classroom Observations protocol which stipulates that the times of observations should be agreed at least five days in advance.

Sheffield NUT teachers' strike against 'mock Ofsteds' on 6 December 2012 at Westfield Sports College, photo Ralph Dyson

Photo Ralph Dyson

What has brought this issue to a head is the school implementing "deep coaching" for any teachers judged to have performed poorly in observation.

This is the equivalent of teachers themselves being put in Special Measures, and a step before being put into the Capability procedure which stays on a teacher's record.

The effect of this is that many teachers leave before risking it going on their record and making it almost impossible to get another post.

The NUT members have been given confidence in taking action by the NUT's national Phase One of industrial action short of a strike. A further two-day then a three-day strike are planned over the next two weeks.

Most of the 20 or so on the picket line were young teachers, many of them newly qualified and the most affected by this observation policy.

Many students joined the teachers on the picket line before going into school. They won't have to do any maths today as the entire maths department is on strike.

Joint Branch secretary of Sheffield NUT Toby Mallinson told me: "This is dictatorship not leadership.

"It's about looking for failure. It puts teachers under even more stress and undermines their confidence which in turn undermines their performance.

"This strike is about who runs the school? Is it just the Head or is it all the teachers and staff? This strike gives teachers the confidence to stand up to management bullying."

Please email messages of support to: nutsheffield@btinternet.com

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