Staff at girls’ school in Bexley walk out over bullying allegations

Staff at a girls’ school went on strike this week after criticisms of the head teacher.

St Catherine’s school in Watling Street, Bexley, saw more than 50 teachers, teaching assistants and support staff walk out on Wednesday over claims that the head teacher has ignored staff views, banned trade union meetings, suspended staff without good reason and sacked an employee without any disciplinary investigation.

The school said that the governors had already investigated the allegations and found them to have no basis.

A spokeswoman said that the head teacher has the full support of trustees, the diocese and her senior leadership team.

The staff’s union – National Education Union – says it has tried to meet the school governors, but so far these have not been arranged.

Members say they have repeatedly raised their concerns with governors, who have failed to take action.

Now some teachers and support staff say they have no confidence in the head teacher to conduct the management of the school in a fair or reasonable way.

Rachel Shepherd, one of the school’s NEU representatives, said: “The NEU regrets that we have been forced to take strike action today.

“We teach our pupils that bullying is never acceptable. We cannot, therefore, stand by and allow it to happen in our own school.

“We do this so that the interests of the pupils in our care can always be placed first.

Two members of staff are currently unfairly suspended and a third has been unjustly sacked. These members must be reinstated and the bullying of staff must end.”

Another teacher, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s a shame we have had to strike but there is a culture of fear at St Catherine’s and this must be addressed.

“The staff have lost all confidence in the head. We have been asking the Governors and the Diocese to intervene for months. I hope they will finally start to listen to us.”

There are further planned strike days on November 6 and 7 and November 12-14.

A spokeswoman for St Catherine’s school said: “Governors at St Catherine’s have had to follow the disciplinary process and suspend some members of staff.

“Investigations are being carried out independently of the school to ensure fairness.

“These matters are ongoing and confidential. The school cannot comment on the specific matters of these cases. The school met with the National Education Union at ACAS on Monday, October 28.

Despite this meeting, the school is deeply disappointed that the NEU refused to call off strike action unless suspended staff were reinstated. Governors have a duty to ensure that serious allegations are investigated and would expect staff to accept that a process is being followed.

The school is aware of the allegations being made about the headteacher. These allegations have already been investigated by governors and found to have no basis.

The headteacher has the full support of governors, trustees, the diocese and her senior leadership team who will continue to work hard to serve the children in the school.”

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