Family & Education

Children will ‘pay price’ says head as talks to avert strike fail

King Solomon head ‘in dismay’ as disruption looms next week


Michele Phillips

The headteacher of King Solomon High School has criticised the National Education Union after the failure of talks on Wednesday to avert a strike over improvement plans.

In a statement on Thursday, KS head Michele Philips said that talks collapsed when the NEU “refused to meet the school team face to face and unilaterally decided to end the negotiation process”.

As a result, the school is set to close next Wednesday and Thursday in to all but students in their GCSE and A-level years, with a further six days of strike action to follow in the next few weeks.

Ms Phillips said, “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.

“I am 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.”

Martin Donohue, London NEU senior regional officer said “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.”

He added, “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 union has previously said that since Ms Phillips’ arrival last September, King Solomon had “lost almost all the senior leadership team, staff sickness is exceptionally high and many long-serving and committed staff have resigned, citing stress and low morale”.

According to King Solomon, the school has met 15 out of 17 demands from the union but it would not agree either to giving a guarantee that teachers currently on support plans would not be subject to formal action or to capping lesson observations of staff at three a year.

In her statement, Ms Phillips said that the school had had four heads in 10 years and since its first inspection in 2003 had been rated satisfactory or “requires improvement” three times.

The NEU, she said, had “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.”

The union clearly wanted strike action, she said, and was “choosing the complete disruption of children’s education over reasonable methods of settling this dispute at the most painful of times in the school calendar”.

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