TEACHERS at the borough's worst-performing secondary school have voted to strike because too many lessons are being observed by senior staff. As pupils prepare to sit their exams, staff at Westwood Girls' College for Languages and Arts, in Upper Norwood, will take industrial action on three separate days in protest at being monitored more than three times a year. The NUT and NASUWT unions say managers are piling too much pressure on teachers. Westwood's interim head teacher and chair of governors have both condemned the strikes – which will happen on May 22, June 6 and June 18 – and insist observations are necessary to improve standards at a school where only 35 per cent of pupils left last summer with five or more good GCSEs. Westwood was placed in "special measures" by Ofsted last November, with teaching, achievement and management judged "inadequate", and is in the process of becoming an academy sponsored by the Harris Federation. Head teacher Karen Benton has been on sick leave since June 2012 and a succession of interim heads have wanted to carry out their own lesson observations. Christopher Everitt was appointed new interim head by Harris at the beginning of this term and immediately informed his staff, the majority of whom have already been assessed at least three times, that more observations would take place. Just four days into his tenure, teachers contacted their union representatives and, despite lengthy negotiations, have now voted to strike. Claudine Reid, chairman of governors, told the Advertiser: "The school needs to make substantial improvements in order to come out of special measures, to reverse the fact we are under-subscribed by local parents and improve our results which are the lowest of any secondary school in Croydon. "If leaders in the school cannot observe lessons, they cannot provide relevant feedback or effective support to improve the quality of teaching. "Given the challenges faced by the school, we do not feel we can support this strike action." Mr Everitt said: "Unsatisfactory teaching can be turned around within two or three terms through high quality support, training and mentoring. Lessons observations are an essential component of this process. "We worked hard to have the strike action averted and entered into talks with the NUT and NASUWT in good faith, so are saddened by this decision." Graham Cluer, national executive member of NASUWT, said: "We're not saying teachers shouldn't be observed, but if you do it too much all it does is increase the pressure on them, which is counter-productive. "Within legislation it says teachers should not be subject to more than three a year, and it seemed Westwood were happy to go along with that. "Now the new head teacher wants to do his own observations but it has reached the point where teachers believe they are no longer helpful. "They have said enough is enough and have decided to strike." Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, young people and learners, said: "It is very disappointing that teaching staff at Westwood have elected to strike over whether lessons they teach can be observed more frequently. "The school is in special measures and Ofsted is quite clear the quality of much of the teaching is inadequate. "It is important that this is addressed very quickly and it will not be possible to do this without lesson observations necessary to help the weaker teachers develop. "Everyone should be putting the needs of pupils first, and that includes the teachers." Ms Reid wrote to parents to inform them of the strikes on Wednesday. Years 7, 8 and 9 will be given work to complete at home on all three days. Year 10 pupils will be expected to work from home next Wednesday, with revision classes organised on June 6 and 18. Students in Year 11 will have revision on Wednesday and only be required to attend school on the other days for if they have exams.
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