Class sizes at Longsands Academy in St Neots hit 90 pupils, staff claim

Class sizes at Longsands Academy in St Neots hit 90 pupils, staff claim

By John DevineBBC News, Cambridgeshire

Matthew Morgan/Geograph Entrance to the Lomgsands Academy, St NeotsMatthew Morgan/Geograph
Unions are balloting for industrial action at Longsands Academy

Class sizes at a high school are sometimes reaching 90 pupils due to teacher shortages, staff claim.

Unions are consulting members about strike action over issues at Longsands Academy in St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

A staff member, who asked not to be named, said: "Teachers are leaving in droves."

Principal Dr Catherine Cusick said the school was meeting with unions to discuss their concerns and was working hard to improve.

A staff member told the BBC on at least two occasions so far this term, groups of between 60 and 90 students had been supervised by staff in the main hall while they worked from text books.

"Teachers are leaving in their droves due to unacceptable management practices including prescribed teaching methods, strict behaviour rules, curriculum changes, workload, constantly being watched and targeted, poor communication, diminished staff student relationships due to policies, rules and expectations, lack of consultation and staff treatment by management," the staff member said.

There was a "real culture of fear for staff" and about a quarter of teaching staff had left in recent months, they added.

A parent, who also asked to remain anonymous, said their child at Longsands had been taught by 20 different supply and cover teachers in their first year at the school.

"There has been no consistency or continuity. My duty as a parent is to ensure the best education possible, and during their first year, they did not get that," they added.

National Education Union Niamh Sweeney, deputy general secretary of the National Education UnionNational Education Union
Niamh Sweeney, deputy general secretary of the National Education Union, said she was hopeful strike action could be avoided

Another parent said she was considering taking her 13-year-old child out of Longsands Academy and sending them to an independent school.

Niamh Sweeney, deputy general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the union was aware of serious concerns over staff retention and recruitment that were having an knock-on effect on teacher and support staff workload.

"These issues are nationwide and whilst we would like the secretary of state to address the teacher supply issue with additional funding, increased pay and a long-term recruitment strategy, it is being left to individual schools to deal with," she said.

It was "not good" for young people to be taught in classes of 60 to 90 by non-subject specialists, she said.

"The impact of high staff turnover on pupils is evident and we would like to work constructively with the leadership at Longsands without having to take strike action, but we are currently in dispute.

"No teacher considers taking strike action lightly and we remain hopeful that it can be avoided."

‚Recruitment is challenging‘

In a statement, Dr Cusick admitted the school had lost 28 teachers in 12 months, and had trainee and non-specialists teaching, particularly in English and maths.

"In a school the size of Longsands, with around 1,600 pupils, that does mean we will have a turnover of staff, as do other secondary schools across the country," she said.

"Recruiting in the current climate is challenging. We had a number of late resignations last term, which meant we are still currently recruiting for permanent teachers in some positions at Longsands."

She said it was "unfortunate" that unions were balloting for industrial action.

"We have done everything we can to engage with the unions to discuss their concerns and will continue to meet with them," she said.

"The wellbeing and happiness of staff are important and crucial in ensuring we provide an excellent education for the young people we serve at Longsands.

"We are working hard at Longsands to improve, which takes time, but we are doing everything we can to achieve a higher grading at the next Ofsted inspection."

The Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are taking the long-term decisions to build up incentives, cut workload, and increase the routes into the teaching profession.

"This includes introducing financial incentives, forming a workload reduction taskforce and trying to embed a culture of flexible working in schools through flexible working ambassador schools."

Title: Class sizes at Longsands Academy in St Neots hit 90 pupils, staff claim
Source: BBC – Homepage
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Date: February 5, 2024 at 01:25PM
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