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Thomas Bennett Teachers vote to strike

99% of the voters elected for strike action.

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Thomas Bennett teachers vote overwhelmingly for strike action over funding cuts and job losses

Teachers working at Thomas Bennett Community College in Tilgate, Crawley have voted to take strike action. Members of the National Education Union (NEU), voted by 99% in favour of the action, with a turnout of 89%. The school, operated by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) has threatened to make teachers redundant and make drastic funding cuts to areas such as support for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Regional Secretary, Paul McLaughlin said:

“This overwhelming result shows the enormous strength of feeling that members have over this devastating issue. We’re calling on the employer to come to the table with serious plans to save this school, otherwise we will be forced to take significant action.”

This follows a recent public meeting where 150 members of the school community including parents, pupils and staff came together with local councillors to oppose these plans by the academy trust.

The union has confirmed that any action will be non-disruptive of exams.

Local Representative and English Teacher in the school, Alex Ramiz said:

“Through this ballot result our members are sending a clear message to The Kemnal Academies Trust that they do not accept their outrageous proposals for running our school into the ground. They will take strike action unless TKAT come up with a more workable solution.”

NEU Regional Officer, Glenn Kelly added:

“TKAT have choices. They have £7 million of reserves they can use to save this school; the Chief Executive is paid £165,000 a year and they can renegotiate the terms of their PFI contract which costs £1 million per year. So far, they have been unwilling to consider these alternatives, and prefer to make our members redundant instead. These decisions would leave vulnerable children in the school without adequate levels of support.”

Angela Newman of the Crawley Community Action Group, a parent led body formed to help fight the cuts to the school, stated;

“I am one of the many parents who are concerned about Thomas Bennett and are determined to save the school. I want to speak up to say that we fully support the teachers who have balloted for action. It’s a shame that it has to get to this but, like us parents they are motivated only to save our school and to be able to provide the children with the education they deserve.”

Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council said:

“As the teachers said at the meeting last week, if you want to prevent the cuts to the school we need to be ready to stand together to defend our children’s education.”

Crawley MP Henry Smith said:

“It’s perfectly understandable and right that teachers at Thomas Bennett should highlight concerns about the future of the community college and I call on the academy trust who runs the school to respond fully to these worries so that pupils and parents can be assured for the future”

Education

Crawley pupils reduce local CO2 by Three Tonnes

In just two weeks Crawley school children reduced local air pollution by six kilogrammes of dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost three tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by walking, biking and scootering to school, instead of travelling by car.

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Pupils at Waterfield Primary School with Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability and Patrick Alexander, Bike It Officer at Sustrans.

As part of cycling and walking charity Sustrans’ annual Big Pedal challenge, children from eight Crawley schools used human power for an astonishing 18,284 journeys. 

This comes hard on the heels of two important new pieces of research:

  • Sustrans published YouGov data in March which showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of teachers would support a school gate vehicle ban during drop-off and pick-up times and that more than half (59%) want urgent Government action to improve air quality near schools
  • Public Health England called on local authorities in March to limit transport emissions urgently, banning idling car engines around schools and investing in foot and cycle paths.

NOx can cause breathing problems, reduced lung function and damage teeth. CO2 is a major contributor to climate change. In Crawley children travelled 12,655 miles actively during the challenge, which equates to travelling almost half way around the world. The reduction in CO2 and NOx was calculated by comparing this to the amount generated if all these journeys had been taken by car.

Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability, said:

“It is fantastic to see an increasing number of schools in Crawley taking part in the Sustrans Big Pedal, whilst promoting sustainable travel to young people.”

Children at Waterfield Primary have won special recognition from Sustrans for their Big Pedal achievements, receiving a certificate in a presentation attended by Cllr Geraint Thomas. The Bike It Crew at Waterfield Primary are notoriously competitive. They held a Bike It Breakfast, Bling your Bike and daily assemblies to mass up a total of 4,386 journeys and a total score of 76.91%. 

Justin Moss, the Deputy Head of Waterfield Primary said,

“Our pupils are so motivated when it comes to travelling sustainably; they’re also very competitive. They walk, scoot and cycle regularly so the Big Pedal has been amazing for us over the past few years. We regularly talk about the benefits of exercise with the children in whole school assemblies and because of this the children understand the differences it can make to their moods and their ability to engage in their learning.

“At Waterfield we have an elected Bike It Crew and the Big Pedal is their biggest job during the year. They have worked tirelessly to encourage teachers and children to continue to travel sustainably as well as organising events and judging the Bling your Bike competition. I am extremely proud of them and all of their achievements this year.”

Hot on their heels was Seymour Primary, who organised Bike Days for all children from years three to six. These days provided an opportunity for children to progress their bike skills and have a go on the bike obstacle course. On these days the school was flooded with bicycles, scooters and active children.

Across Crawley eight schools took part, from a potential 35. While we can’t say what the impact would be if it was replicated across Crawley even just for two school terms these findings raise interesting questions.

Sustrans’ Regional Director for the South, James Cleeton, said,

“The children, families and schools of Crawley have shown how individuals can dramatically improve the world around them, by replacing cars with human power for just part of the daily routine.

“These children haven’t just prevented the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but they’ve improved their mental and physical health, giving all of them a better start to the school day.

“At Sustrans, we’re so grateful to every local authority, school, teacher, parent and child who has helped make this possible. What a great start to summer – and a glimpse of what school mornings in Crawley could be like in future.”

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