As pupils returned to classrooms in England and Wales, teachers at Oaks Park High School in Redbridge, east London returned to picket lines instead.
Workers there opposed bullying management and the sacking of a union rep who challenged the school’s safety measures at the height of the pandemic.
They struck in June and July and last week continued their fight by staff walking out from 7-9 September. They were set to return to picket lines for three days from Tuesday this week.
Current and former staff at Oaks Park say bullying runs deep within the school. This has pushed some staff to “counselling for stress and severe anxiety”.
Others complain of a “toxic atmosphere” and “feeling physically sick on the way to work”.
Around 100 school workers and local trade unionists protested outside Redbridge town hall last Saturday to demand the council stop supporting the school’s bullying management.
They held union banners and signs reading, “Bully-free zone,” and “Stop union busting.”
As the new wave of strikes began, agency staff were hired to cover for the striking teachers and support staff. The NEU claims this is unlawful.
Redbridge NEU secretary, Venda Premkumar, said, “It is disappointing that Redbridge, a Labour council, has heard harrowing accounts of the bullying taking place at Oaks Park High and is allowing it to continue.
“We should have resolved the dispute last academic year to end the disruption to children and families’ lives.
“Education workers do not want to work in a borough where the council gives the green light to bullies,” she said.
Redbridge council also saw protests at the end of last term for refusing to back victimised staff.
NEU members say the council can expect more strikes and protests if it refuses to condemn strike breaking.
Bill Stockwell, assistant secretary of Redbridge NEU, said, “We cannot be confident the toxic environment in the school will change until our rep who was sacked on grossly overstated charges is reinstated.”
Redbridge NEU members have received support from parents and the wider trade union movement.
Meanwhile in Willenhall, West Midlands, Barcroft Primary School started term late as 28 teachers and support staff refused to work.
The fantastic unofficial strike action was in response to the reinstatement of two senior school leaders who were suspended over allegations of bullying.
The schools remained closed for two days and returned on the third, only offering classes for four year groups.
Some parents complain that the bullying has affected the quality of teaching provided with many staff regularly accepting other jobs.