A St Neots secondary school will open as normal over two days of teacher strikes this week – despite concerns there will not be enough staff on site.  

Longsands Academy has told parents the school will remain open tomorrow and on Wednesday when National Education Union (NEU) members plan to walk out.  

But the NEU believes the school should be closed on health and safety grounds, given the numbers of staff who will be taking part in the strikes.  

The dispute centres around “adverse management practices" including a series of unresolved concerns at the school, which is run by the Astrea Academy Trust.  

Longsands principal Dr Catherine Cusick wrote to parents over the weekend claiming the “last substantive issue” of the disagreement is over the Morning Welcome.  

This is where school staff and over 1,400 students come together at the start of the school day for what is described as a five minute “opportunity to welcome the students”. 

Dr Catherine Cusick, the principal of Longsands Academy, in St Neots.Dr Catherine Cusick, the principal of Longsands Academy, in St Neots. (Image: Astrea Academy Trust) A spokesperson for Longsands Academy later added: “It is deeply disappointing that industrial action is going ahead, and particularly so when it is based on one last substantive issue.  

“We have made many compromises throughout our discussions, but we will not compromise on holding the Morning Welcome.  

“This is such an important part of our school day, giving us the opportunity to welcome the students every morning and getting everyone off to a calm start to the day ahead.   

“This is particularly important given the behaviour issues identified in the recent Ofsted report that we are all still working to improve.  

“Lasting for five minutes, Morning Welcome gives us the opportunity to share any messages with the whole school – for instance about our values, or something that is happening in school that day.  

“This is a far more efficient way of sharing messages consistently rather than asking all of our 50 different tutors to deliver that message during tutor time.” 

The spokesperson explained the Morning Welcome is also used to celebrate students’ various achievements and helped introduce September’s new Year 7 cohort to the school.  

While the NEU argues this time could be better spent on pastoral care for students and departmental meetings, it explained there are “significant number of outstanding issues” at Longsands.  

These include excessive workload, changes to timetables and the school day, and job roles and responsibilities.  

The union also claims over 50 teachers left Longsands between July 2023 and July 2024 – 40 this academic year alone.  

Paul McLaughlin, the union's regional secretary, said: “There are a significant number of outstanding issues at Longsands Academy, one of which is around the timings of their school day.  

“The management insists on having this pointless morning exercise. Clearly, if that was abandoned as we have suggested, it would allow more time for more meaningful interactions with students such as pastoral care and departmental meetings. 

“For us, it not just about the one issue – there are a significant number of other issues. If we are to resolve this dispute, then we need to resolve all the outstanding issues and not just this one issue of the Morning Welcome. 

“But that in itself is a symptom of the fact management is insistent in going ahead with something we see, and many students would see, as pointless.” 

The Longsands spokesperson said the NEU rejected the alternative suggestions about when departmental meetings could take place.  

She said: “It is truly saddening that the strike is going ahead on the basis of this, when we know that removing Morning Welcome would set us back and slow the pace of improvement at Longsands.”   

The NEU is the largest education union in the UK. It is not known yet exactly how many of its members will be taking part in the Longsands Academy walkout.  

Parents, students and other members of the community are welcome to join the "peaceful and respectful" picket line between 7am and 9:30am at the Longsands Road entrance on strike days.   

A post on the NEU Cambridgeshire Facebook page says: “Given the numbers of staff who will be striking we believe the school should be shut on health and safety grounds. 

“However, if the school remains open the presence of staff, parents and the community standing together is powerful and will be powerful.”