Family & Education

King Solomon ‘likely to close’ for eight days as teachers threaten strike action

The dispute is over teacher accountability and lesson observations


Michele Phillips

King Solomon High School in Redbridge has warned parents that it is likely to have to close for several days over the next few weeks owing to threatened strike action by National Education Union (NEU) teachers over improvement plans introduced by new headteacher Michele Phillips.

Talks are due to take place tomorrow between the school and the union at the arbitration service Acas in a bid to reach an agreement.

But if this fails, this would “almost certainly result” in the closure of the school for eight days during the remainder of term, starting next Wednesday and Thursday, the school said.

The head had relayed the news of the vote to strike with “dismay and deepest sadness”, the school said in a statement.

“There are no words to really describe how damaging, detrimental and upsetting this will be for students and families, especially those taking GCSEs and A Levels later this year. The Senior Leadership Team and governors still hope to avoid this action, but we fear that despite planned talks with independent mediators… strike action will likely take place.”

According to the statement, the dispute with the teachers has arisen from an improvement plan instigated by Ms Phillips to “secure the future of Essex’s only Jewish secondary school”.

In November 2021, King Solomon, which had previously been ranked good by Ofsted, was downgraded to a school that “requires improvement”. Inspectors reported that teaching did “not routinely provide regular opportunities to revisit pupils’ knowledge and skills”.

King Solomon said that it had met 15 of 17 demands by the union but the sticking points were calls for a guarantee that staff on support plans to help improve their teaching would not move on to formal proceedings; and that lesson observations of staff would be capped at three times a year.

The school said that the system in place for teacher accountability and lesson observations was in line with the local education authority, Redbridge.

It said the head had introduced several improvements for staff, including more performance-related pay increases than in previous years; the replacement of the past lunch duty arrangements with an optional paid system; and one-to-one coaching support for department heads.

The school said that 38 of the staff who were NEU members had voted to strike.

It told parents it would do its best to keep open for small groups on strike days, prioritising those in exam years. But the head would have to make a risk assessment on whether it could open safely.

The NEU has put the planned strike action down to disagreement with the headteacher’s management style and other concerns over how the school was being run. 

The district secretary of the union’s Redbridge branch said, “Members of the NEU are keen to avoid strike action and are calling on parents to write to the headteacher and the local authority to help resolve the dispute.”

The union said a Zoom meeting for parents of King Solomon would take place on March 27 to give them “more details about the dispute”.

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