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Pupils strike over teacher redundancies
11:30am Tuesday 27th March 2012 in News
Hundreds of students walked out of lessons yesterday in an extraordinary protest against teacher redundancies.
In what is believed to be the first “strike” of its kind pupils from Chatsmore Catholic High School in Goring Street, Worthing, demonstrated against the loss of two popular teachers.
Organisers of yesterday's four-hour sit-in said as many as 600 pupils - aged 11 to 16 - took part in the demonstration.
Students refused to leave the school field after learning last week that popular teachers Jan Archer and Cora Gillies had taken voluntary redundancy following a consultation.
Headteacher Mike Madden told The Argus last week it had been an extremely difficult decision but the school's hand was forced by drastic cuts to capital funding.
He said funding of about £85,000 had repeatedly been cut back to just £13,000 next year.
Callum Jenner, 15, who helped organise the protest, said: “Between them both they have been here for 40 years. They have always been a part of the community and spent a lot of time coming in to school in their own time.
“The headteacher said the school was not able to afford it because the Government had made cuts.
“This is not against the teachers. It is more against the governors.”
The strike came after The Argus reported that teachers across Sussex could face redundancy as unions said consultations are being held at unnamed primary and secondary schools.
The Argus understands there are more than five currently in progress and dozens of teachers could lose their jobs by the end of the next academic year.
Paul Shellard, secretary of Brighton and Hove National Union of Teachers, said it was “bound to be the case” that children at other schools will show their anger at redundancies.
He said: “Because of the relationship between teachers and students that if someone is forcibly made to leave their employment I would expect there to be some reaction from colleagues and students.”
The union's policy is opposed to compulsory redundancies. He said: “If people are made compulsory redundant then ultimately we can ballot for strike action. But obviously we try to find more productive ways to deal with it to ensure people don't lose their jobs.”
Posts on Facebook claimed students ordered pizzas to keep themselves going through the protest as teachers looked on.
Tributes on the site said that PE teacher Miss Gillies was “trustworthy, approachable and helpful” and that students felt they could talk to about a range of problems.
It is understood she is staying at the school until June but that Miss Archer will leave sooner.
Joe Hammond, 16, said: “We don't think it's right that they are being asked to leave when they are two of the best teachers in the school.
“I am in Year 11 and I have never seen anything like this before (at the school). Miss Gillies is always there for everyone. She is always there to lend a hand.”
Students also took to Twitter yesterday to voice their opposition.
Imogen Livingston said: “I'm from Chatsmore we feel strongly about our teachers and we want them to know we care. That's why we are protesting.”
The school had not responded to The Argus last night.
Last week Mr Madden said: “We are a Catholic community and we are proud that students feel so strongly about staff that have given them so much help and care over the years. The harsh reality is budgets are much reduced. We have lost funding from a number of streams and had to make a number of difficult decisions.”