Protest planned after a teacher of twenty years faces dismissal for raising health and safety concerns

Teachers at The John Roan School in Greenwich will be on strike tomorrow to defend a teacher of 20 years who is being faced with dismissal.

National Education Union (NEU) representative, Kirstie Paton, is facing dismissal at a disciplinary hearing the next day, on April 30, for speaking out about health and safety in schools.  

Her employer, United Learning (UL), whose Chief Executive Jon Coles is one of the highest paid Multi-Academy Trust bosses in the country with an annual salary of over £250,000 a year, wants to stop her speaking up for NEU members in future.

UL have also recently announced they want to save money at The John Roan by making compulsory redundancies in the drama, P.E. and computer science departments. 

Kirstie is NEU co-representative at The John Roan School, a health and safety committee member, deputy district secretary and health and safety officer of the Greenwich NEU.

She is also an elected member of NEU national executive committee. 

Before Christmas, the government had proposed that Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) were used in secondary schools nationally and had run a pilot in United Learning Schools.

It was suggested that existing school staff should run the test sites. Kirstie raised concerns about the risks of using existing school staff to run the Lateral Flow Test sites, alongside other support staff unions who advised their members not to agree to such practices for health and safety reasons.

Tim Woodcock, Greenwich NEU District Secretary, said: “Our members at John Roan are striking because United Learning have left them with no choice. 

“UL want to victimise Kirstie so they can intimidate staff into silence and deprive our members of an effective and dedicated union rep. 

“They want to push through job cuts and unsafe practices. Of course, UL also couldn’t care less that will also deprive students at The John Roan of an inspirational teacher. 

“For UL schools are a business to be run as cheaply as possible and trade union reps are an obstacle to be removed.

“NEU members won’t stand for that and if that means more strikes to defend our reps like Kirstie, then so be it.”

Kirstie is being disciplined because she responded on her NEU National Executive Member Facebook page to a blog on a DfE website from the Head of another UL school.

In that blog, the Head had promoted Lateral Flow Tests as an alternative to staff and students, who come into contact with Covid-19 infection, being sent home to isolate if their LFT showed a negative result.

It has been claimed that LFTs produce a high level of false negatives and therefore the NEU, along with medical and scientific experts including the MHRA, advises they should not be used in that way.  

NEU members are striking on the eve of Kirstie’s disciplinary hearing and have made clear there will be further strikes if the employer goes ahead with their threat to dismiss her.

A source at United Learning said it would be inappropriate to comment on any disciplinary process that is currently underway. He said trade union representatives are held to the same standards of behaviour as all other staff.

NEU members will be picketing The John Roan school, 386 Westcombe Park Road,  SE3 7QR from 7.00am on the of April 29.

NEU members will also be protesting in support of Kirstie outside her disciplinary hearing on the 30th of April from 9.00 – 10.30am which is being held at the Professional Development Centre, 1 Waterdale Rd, London, SE2 0XT




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