EXCLUSIVE: Sheffield headteacher threatens legal action against school strikers

Striking teachers have “caused distress to children, staff and parents” according to the executive headteacher of a Sheffield primary school, who says she is currently seeking legal advice.

But teachers claim changes brought in at Westways Primary School have led to a reduction in creativity and morale.

Teachers in the National Education Union (NEU) have picketed this morning about the removal of learning through play, a ‘teaching to the test’ curriculum, and increased workloads. A petition against the changes has also been signed by more than 600 people.

Dave Pike, Regional Officer for the National Education Union, said: “These concerns have received a huge amount of support from parents at Westways and this was clear at the parents’ demonstration on the 1st of December.”

The NEU argued that ‘teaching to the test’ and reducing opportunities for topic work, creative subjects, and playtime diminishes morale and has been criticised by Ofsted, which has rated the school as ‘Requires Improvement’ twice.

They have demanded that Sam Fearnehough, executive headteacher of Westways, “accept these changes undermine effective managements and should be discussed with professionals.”

Mrs Fearnehough said: “The current curriculum is largely unchanged. These systems are working well and children are making accelerated progress in reading across the school.”

She added: “Only seven out of 21 classes are closed to pupils. Most teachers are not against the curriculum and can already see the benefits of teaching in new ways. The measures in place happen in all good schools and are not unusual.

“All other unions have refused to support the strike and don’t see it as a trade dispute.”

The NEU met with Mrs Fearnehough yesterday to discuss the issues.

Mrs Fearnehough said: “This meeting was arranged two days ago but they still insisted on striking. My belief is that they are using the school for their own national agenda.”

The NEU said they will strike on 12 December and 13 December with potential further action planned after Christmas if there is no settlement.