A teaching union has notified a controversial academy trust that members at one of its schools intend to strike this autumn.  

While teacher strikes may have ended across England as unions come to an agreement about pay, disputes with the Astrea Academy Trust continue locally.   

The trust - which runs 26 schools, including four secondary schools in Cambridgeshire - has been under fire for its strict behaviour and teaching policies.  

Now, the NASUWT union says its members who teach at the St Ivo Academy, in St Ives, intend to strike after students return from the summer break.  

Ely Standard: St Ivo Academy, in St Ives.St Ivo Academy, in St Ives. (Image: Google Street View)

The reason behind the strikes is being cited as a “lack of professional autonomy” when it comes to teaching at St Ivo Academy.   

Teachers are being told, for example, to deliver lessons from centrally-produced booklets which the union says "disempowers the professional in the classroom".

NASUWT says this "one size fits all, approach to behaviour and teaching" is having an impact on students' mental health and their education.

It added as talks over these concerns led to no change from Astrea, members have voted in favour of strike action.  

But a spokesperson for Astrea insists the workbook approach aims “to help reduce teacher workload” and that a recent review from Ofsted of the entire trust recognised the efforts being made at its schools.  

The Astrea spokesperson said: “We continue to discuss a range of issues with the NASUWT and hope to avoid any industrial action.   

“Everything we do is focused on helping children learn, thrive and lead successful lives, as was recognised in Ofsted’s recent evaluation of the trust, published just a few weeks ago.”  

Ely Standard: Mark Burns, the NASUWT National Executive representing union members in Cambridgeshire. Mark Burns, the NASUWT National Executive representing union members in Cambridgeshire. (Image: NASUWT)

Mark Burns is the NASUWT national executive who represents the union’s members in Cambridgeshire and has previously said the Ofsted review “is not reflective” of what he is hearing on the ground.   

In an email to this publication, he said: “On July 25, the Astrea Academy Trust was formally notified of our intention to carry out a programme of action short of strike action and six days of strike action in the autumn term.”  

He added: “The NASUWT has repeatedly tried discussing these issues with senior Astrea management to no avail.   

“They seem determined to push ahead with an extremist, one size fits all, approach to behaviour and teaching.  

“This is causing significant mental health issues for many children whose education will suffer.   

“Additionally, this disempowers the professional in the classroom and removes their ability to adapt their methods to best fit the needs of their students.  

“They are merely the mouthpiece to deliver the mantra of Astrea.”   

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The ballot for strike action also saw one of the highest turnouts in the area for a large school, with 80 per cent of NASUWT members at St Ivo Academy casting their vote compared to the Cambridgeshire average of 51 per cent.   

While Astrea later highlighted that 15 members of staff out of 115 across the school voted in favour of the industrial action, the union said more teachers will be taking part. 

"It will be enough to cause significant disruption," Mr Burns added.

Dates being set for the strikes are October 10 and November 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9.   

It is not yet known if other teaching unions will also join.  

Ely Standard: Tony Meneaugh, the new principal at St Ivo Academy, in St Ives. Tony Meneaugh, the new principal at St Ivo Academy, in St Ives. (Image: Astrea Academy Trust)

Parents have previously spoken of the impact the strict behaviour policies at St Ivo Academy have had on their children’s mental health.   

The trust instils a daily routine that starts with making students line up for ‘morning address’ and uniform inspections.   

NASUWT and parents say students are handed detentions for small mistakes such as forgetting a pen.

But a trust spokesperson has since insisted that detentions are not issued for a single instance of forgetting a pen, however it's repeated failures that can result in a detention.

The trust claims their strict behaviour policy creates an appropriate environment for learning.  

But a survey conducted by the St Ivo Parents Forum found 77 per cent of families who responded had a child miss school because of poor mental health.    

An Astrea Academy spokesperson said: “The [Ofsted] report talks about our common strategies, locally implemented, underpinned by ‘collaboration and a rigorous drive towards excellence.'  

"Inspectors comment that our 'leaders and staff are united by a vision of addressing disadvantage so that all children learn, thrive and live successful lives'.   

“Furthermore, they say that colleagues across Astrea ‘value the calm classrooms and corridors that they increasingly experience. Staff report that this has reduced their workload.’”  

The trust also stressed how it “is fully committed to helping St Ivo become a Good school once again” and part of that “improvement drive” has been to appoint Tony Meneaugh as the new principal.   

The spokesperson said: “Tony joins us with a strong pedigree of leadership and school improvement.   

“He is looking forward to taking up post from the start of the new school year and building his team.   

“We are hopeful that NASUWT will be keen to engage with the new team and work together in the interests of staff, students and the whole St Ivo community.”  

The Astrea Academy Trust also runs Ernulf Academy and Longsands Academy in St Neots and Cottenham Village College.   

Elsewhere in the country, it also runs schools in Barnsley, Sheffield and Doncaster.  

The spokesperson said: “As we have said previously, booklets are made available to help reduce teacher workload, something that the unions have campaigned on tirelessly for many years.   

“In September booklets will also be used when we introduce the new PSHE curriculum, which is something that Ofsted highlighted in St Ivo’s last inspection.”

Ely Standard: Students from St Ivo Academy, in St Ives, met with MP Jonathan Djanogly to share their experiences at the school.Students from St Ivo Academy, in St Ives, met with MP Jonathan Djanogly to share their experiences at the school. (Image: St Ivo Parents Forum)

When it comes to claims about students’ mental health, the trust responded by saying there “is a national trend showing an increase in mental health issues in young people post-Covid" and “services locally and nationally are under sustained and significant pressure”.   

“If the NASUWT has specific student concerns then we strongly encourage them to share the specific concerns with pastoral leads so these can be resolved,” Astrea said.   

Meanwhile, parents of students at Astrea schools across the country have been connecting over social media and sharing their concerns with each other. 

A spokesperson for the St Ivo Parents Forum said: “We are disappointed that Astrea senior managers are not listening to the hardworking and dedicated staff at St Ivo.   

“The Forum supports the staff, they know the students, the school and the local community.   

“It is concerning that they are not being heard.

“No one wants staff to be in the position that strikes are their only option, the Forum recognise that this is indicative of the concerns that staff have.   

“St Ivo Parent Forum support the staff at St Ivo school and we hope strikes can be avoided.”