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Staff at out-of-control school beset by mob-rule walk out on strike

Staff are striking for a second day today over safeguarding fears at a violence-hit secondary school where teachers have been forced to install panic buttons.

Employees at Starbank School in Yardley, Birmingham, have taken the action today amid accusations they had been threatened with knives and punched by pupils.

The school carries an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating but staff have walked out saying they no longer felt safe thanks to a behaviour policy being blamed for mayhem.

Meanwhile the schools watchdog confirmed to MailOnline today that it had launched an unannounced inspection at Starbank, which began yesterday.

Today, 16 staff from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (Nasuwt) staged the second of two walkouts after the first on June 27.

Parents speaking to MailOnline outside the school today said they back the strike, despite hundreds of children being told to stay at home today.

Children aged 11 to 13 in years seven and eight of the school have been kept at home today, but parents say they don’t think the school is safe for them anyway.

Parents have been voicing their concerns for the lack of control in a school they say is controlled by the children and teachers have had enough.

Yasmin Achtar, 50, who has five children at the school, said: ‘We support the teachers that are striking. There must be something seriously wrong for them to be doing it.

‘A lot of the teachers in the secondary are supply teachers or temporary, because they can’t keep full time staff. They refuse to work here. 

‘So the staff who are teaching our kids are not committed, they basically throw a book on the table and say ‘teach yourself’.

‘Even us parents are scared to have our pictures taken to let people know what is happening – we fear the children could face the repercussions in the classroom.’

Father-of-one, Suhell Miah, 37, whose child is enrolled in Starbank Primary School, attached to the main building, said: ‘You can’t come to this school and learn.

‘The noise of secondary can be heard at the primary campus. The headteacher hasn’t handled the problems with secondary at all. 

‘I don’t blame the permanent teachers for walking out, because its not a safe school to teach in. Something has to be done about the situation and I don’t see the teachers have any other choice.

‘The school is just full of temporary staff and they have no commitment to the kids.’

Another parent, Shabana Begum, 30, who has one daughter enrolled in Starbank, said: ‘When my daughter first started here, a boy started harassing her.

‘My daughter ignored him until he got physical and started hitting her, when I brought it up with senior members of the school they promised me a meeting that never happened – it was brushed under the rug.

‘The bullies get heard more than the victims here, and they control the school, not the teachers.’ 

Unions have had complaints from members at the school over the ‘Pivotal’ approach – a training method that focuses on teachers’ behaviour rather than that of pupils.

But the firm behind it, Pivotal Education – set up by a former teacher – points to the fact it is working with 1,000 schools across the country as proof of its method.

It removes rewards and sanctions from pupils and tells them they will be ‘respected, regardless of their behaviour’, while pushing the adults to ‘strip out all negative responses when dealing with challenging behaviour’.

Unions said teachers at one school using the method had to wear a ‘pledge ribbon’, showing what they had promised to do. One pledge tells pupils the teacher is working on their ‘negativity’.

However, Marian Kassim, who has two children who go to the neighbouring primary school, was unimpressed by the strikes, saying: ‘I’ve been coming here for years, and this school is great.

‘If in an entire school there are 16 teachers who are having problems, that should be sorted without dragging the whole school down as well.

‘The children that are a problem should be taken out; I don’t support the teachers’ strike because it’s making the whole school look bad, they should be able to sort the problem out internally.

‘I went to school in London, where the crime in schools was much worse, everyone should be grateful that their kids can go here.’

It comes as a terrified pupil at the trouble-hit school said that she has had to flee lessons before they had finished because she feared being attacked by bullies.

The 13-year-old lived in fear of being ‘banged out’ at the school, where pupils have been filmed punching one another and parents have demanded metal detectors.

The girl, who wishes to remain anonymous, said other children were ‘making her life hell’ at the school, which is at the centre of a knife crime investigation.

Speaking with parental permission, the girl said she was so scared of being beaten up on the way home that she swapped full-time education there for part-time. 

Last month, shocking video footage emerged showing pupils fighting in the corridors and on the school fields.

Teachers and parents at the school have talked about regular ‘Thursday fights’, although some say brawls break out throughout the week.  

Nasuwt general secretary Chris Keates said: ‘A meeting was held with officers of the Birmingham Local Authority today regarding the situation at Starbank School.

‘A number of requests were put to the Authority which the Nasuwt believes would assist in making progress on the dispute.

‘Unfortunately insufficient progress was made at the meeting towards addressing our members’ concerns and, therefore, the strike action planned for Wednesday July 3 will proceed as planned.

‘There will be no picket at the school on this occasion as the members will be having a private meeting to review the position, discuss all of the outstanding issues which remain to be addressed and consider the next stage in the dispute.

‘Contact will then be made with the Birmingham Authority and a further statement may be made by the Nasuwt on the situation at that time.’

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said schools and teachers needed to go ‘back to basics’.

He added: ‘What we hear about in Birmingham is only the tip of the iceberg, there is a problem of disorder in far more classrooms than is publicised. In many classroms the children are in charge.

‘The methods of training teachers are so child centred that they encourage teachers to hand over power to the children, so the children are in charge – the bullies are in charge and it is the teachers who are bullied. We need to improve the teacher training so teachers are in charge.’

Starbank headteacher Satnam Dosanjh sent a letter to parents on June 27, saying: ‘We would like to reassure you that pupil behaviour is well-managed and the school environment continues to be safe for both pupils and staff.

‘While there have been isolated cases of knife possession in school, such incidents are extremely rare and are dealt with in line with city-wide safeguarding policies.’ 

An Ofsted spokesman said: ‘Ofsted began an unannounced inspection of this school yesterday.

‘To be clear, we took this decision ourselves; we were not ‘called in’. We will publish our inspection report in due course.’

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