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A planned strike at a controversial free school tomorrow has been avoided at the eleventh hour.

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Teachers at Stem 6 Academy, in City Road, Finsbury, voted to walk out tomorrow over stingy “zero-hour” contracts, but this afternoon school bosses and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) got round the table and avoided what would have been the first ever strike at a free school.

Staff had voted to down pencils after being forced to sign “deplorable” working conditions – including zero hours contracts – just before Christmas.

But NUT chiefs say planned industrial action in the coming fortnight will still go ahead if talks break down.

Ken Muller, assistant secretary of Islington NUT, said: “They have agreed to recognise the NUT and enter early and meaningful discussions in regards to the terms and conditions of employment.

“We are very pleased with outcome of discussion and we look forward to positive meetings.

“However they have not called off the further strike, this will depend on meetings being successful.

“It’s disappointing we had to threaten strike action to get them to talk, but that’s water under bridge.”

Teachers claim they had to sign, on pain of legal consequences, contracts saying:

The school can lay them off without pay or cut their hours, with as much notice as they can reasonably give.

They can receive just three weeks’ sick pay a year.

They are only entitled to statutory maternity leave.

The NUT says these are far worse conditions than most Islington schools offer, but because Stem 6 is a free school, Islington Council has no say in how it is run.

John O’Shea, principal of STEM Academy, said. “I’m delighted that, following constructive discussions with staff, tomorrow’s proposed strike action has been suspended. This means that there will be no disruption tomorrow to teaching and our students will remain completely unaffected.

“The Governing Body will now continue the ongoing consultation process with staff, over a number of contractual issues that have been raised. I am very optimistic, based on conversations with staff, that we’ll reach a successful conclusion to this process in due course.”

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