King Solomon to close for 8 days after union talks collapse

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King Solomon to close for 8 days after union talks collapse

'It is the students that will pay the price with this woeful lack of care and compassion for teaching' says head teacher Michele Phillips after National Education Union reps refused to meet the school team face to face

King Solomon school in Ilford, Essex
King Solomon school in Ilford, Essex

Last ditch efforts to avoid an 8-day closure at Essex’s only Jewish secondary school have failed after teachers union NEU refused to meet the school team face to face at the negotiation table for crunch talks on Wednesday 13th March. 

38 teachers will now walk out over an ongoing performance accountability dispute.

As reported by Jewish News, the action forces the Redbridge school to close from Wednesday 20 March through to 10 April, the crucial period ahead of GCSEs and A levels.

In a statement seen by Jewish News, headteacher Michele Phillips said: “I am today giving further distressing news that after five hours with independent mediator, ACAS, yesterday afternoon talks with the NEU collapsed when the NEU refused to meet the school team face to face, and unilaterally decided to end the negotiation process.

“The hard truth is the school needs to improve, and this means that teaching needs to improve to keep a Jewish school in Redbridge for current and future generations.  Leaders holding staff to account is a standard part of running any successful organisation.”

Phillips added that she was “in utter dismay that 38 staff in this school would rather take this action than support a committed Headteacher and Senior Leadership in turning this school around, and be part of an exciting new journey of success.”

King Solomon High School has had four headteachers in ten years and been Ofsted rated Requires Improvement/Satisfactory three times since its first inspection in 2003.

Phillips said that the NEU has “failed to acknowledge the significant number of agreements and initiatives reached between us started under my leadership, and instead insist on making meaningless statements whilst ignoring the reality of established Redbridge policy on school education. This is utterly unacceptable and is an attempt to mask poor teaching and lack of professionalism of a few members of staff. It is the students that will pay the price with this woeful lack of care and compassion for teaching.”

She added that the NEU “clearly wants strike action” and have chosen “the complete disruption of children’s education over reasonable methods of settling this dispute at the most painful of times in the school calendar.”

Phillips said that a statement in a press release from the NEU claiming that staff only voted for strike action after the first talks with school leaders failed on 27th February 2024 is “untrue”, adding that on the 29th January 2024 she “received formal notice from the NEU that staff would be balloting for strike action and staff started voting from the 5th February 2024. This was nearly three weeks before the first negotiation meeting.

“The NEU has been at the forefront of this strike chaos. At least three other schools in Redbridge have experienced similar action from the NEU in the last four years. All of these schools had Headteachers in their formative years of Headship.”

Martin Donohue, London NEU senior regional officer told Jewish News: “This is not the case. Talks ended yesterday when the school refused to negotiate on any of the serious and concerning issues raised by NEU members. These include misuse of capability procedure, management style, excessive workload, and a lack of consultation. Rather than attempting to mislead parents and the public we urge the school to genuinely engage with members concerns and negotiate in good faith. A zoom meeting for parents of King Solomon High School will be arranged to give them more details about the dispute.”

The school will be closed on Wednesday (20th March) and Thursday (21st March) next week to all students apart from Year 11 and Year 13.

The full list of strike days are as follows:

●      Wednesday 20 March 2024

●      Thursday 21 March 2024

●      Tuesday 26 March 2024

●      Wednesday 27 March 2024

●      Thursday 28 March 2024

●      Thursday 04 April 2024

●      Tuesday 09 April 2024

●      Wednesday 10 April 2024

Jewish News has approached the NEU for comment.

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