Parents Protest Against Proposed School Redundancies

Dozens of parents and pupils gathered outside James Peacock Infant and Primary School in Ruddington this morning to protest at plans to make ‘a significant number’ of Teaching Assistants (TAs) there redundant.

Rumours of job losses started circulating last week when two families reported that Special Educational Needs TAs had already been removed from one to one sessions with their children with less than 24 hours notice was given. At the time it was unclear exactly how many jobs were under threat. The School has since revealed the proposals are that the number of TAs will be reduced from 13.63 FTE to 9.815 FTE – meaning the loss of at least 3 members of staff.

Parent Matt Mullany-Green secured a meeting with Head Teacher Richard Waldron to talk about the situation. Matt reveals: “Mr Waldron declined to provide any details that would reassure me either that other options had been fully explored or that the changes would not negatively impact on children. Although there are legal considerations about what can be made public during a restructuring consultation that involves redundancy, I have extensive experiences in these processes through my work with the University and Colleages Union and know that it would be possible – and helpful – to provide much more information to parents.” Consequently Matt decided to start an online petition to the Board of Governors at James Peacock School to ‘Save Ruddington Teaching Assistant Jobs’.

Chair of Governors Charles Rayner

This petition prompted a letter from the Chair of Governors, Charles Rayner, which reads: “I thought I would write to all parents following information which is being circulated about proposed reductions at James Peacock School. Alongside other schools in the area, a situation has arisen where our school budget has fallen into deficit due to factors out of the schools control. This needs to be addressed in order for us to remain sustainable for the future. Members of the governing body along with the head teacher have looked at and exhausted all means to reduce the deficit through savings in other departments but unfortunately this is not sufficient to return our budget back into a surplus. I can reassure you that if the reductions go ahead the children at our school will still be well supported and their needs will be met as we are fortunate to have a high percentage of support staff compared to similar schools in the locality.”

Matt Mullany-Green with the petition

However, in just a week, the petition gathered nearly one and a half thousand signatures. “We have all been amazed at the overwhelming support from parents and the Ruddington community, as well as from people across the region” says Matt. “I have a child at the school and the work that TAs have done throughout his time there has been invaluable not only in supporting his learning but also his mental and physical health. I am also involved in the Nottingham Campaign for Education, which is a group made up of teachers, lecturers, students, pupils and support staff across the region.”

Parent Tristram Aver also took part in today’s protest: “The impact of the loss of TAs is widespread in the county, and will impact every student in the school” says Tristram. “We are greatly concerned about this, and how it will effect the village community. In my opinion Ruddington is beginning to feel the real impact of cuts in schools, which I feel is only beginning to affect, and be seen by, the families here.” But he adds: “I do wish to stress how fantastic the school is, and how important all staff have been for providing support for the children (and in some cases, the parents too). This is not an attack on the school and staff, and I don’t wish to single out any particular person. We know it’s a difficult decision, but we want to know how it was made and what other options there may be.”

Gwen Eyre, speaking on behalf of Friends of James Peacock, admits they were “very shocked and saddened” to hear of the proposed cuts to a number of the school’s most experienced Teaching Assistants. “As a committee we have become increasingly aware that the school budget is being stretched to breaking point by cuts at a national level” says Gwen. “As parents we are enormously grateful to the skill and commitment of the TAs working in school. The Friends of School would also like to highlight the contribution Teaching assistants have made to our fundraising efforts. This support is entirely voluntary and done outside of normal working hours. The Friends of James Peacock have no involvement in the school’s budget but we have contacted Mr Waldron and the Governors to ask if there is anything we can do to supplement the school budget in the light of the possible redundancies. We are, of course, committed to supporting the school and the education of our children.”

School Head Richard Waldron has yet to receive a direct response to our questions from the school’s Head Teacher. But, in a letter to parents, Mr Waldron writes: “I just wanted to write to reassure you that the governors and I have carefully considered options for the school and explain that I am unable at this stage to provide any further information on this matter. I would like to make it clear that we explored multiple options in attempting to reduce the significant deficit budget that school faces. It is with great regret that staffing is an area that is affected. We are currently in consultation with trade union representatives on behalf of the staff. In doing so we are actively looking to explore any options that could mitigate the need for staffing reductions in the school.”

Before classes started this morning, parents gathered outside the school with banners, placards and stickers to underline their protest against job cuts. After organiser Matt and the others gave speeches to outline their protest {video below} the ‘Save Ruddington Teaching Assistant Jobs’ petition was delivered to the school office. Matt adds: “We are asking for a commitment from the School to hold a public meeting to see if we can find a workable solution that doesn’t involve reducing the number of staff in our over-sized classrooms. We will also ask again for details of the financial challenges and of the alternatives that have been explored so far.”

UPDATE 3rd JUNE 2019:

On Tuesday May 21st Matt Mullany-Green met with the Head and Deputy Head Teachers of James Peacock School, and its Chair of Governors.

He reports: “We discussed issues relating to the financial challenges facing the school and I noted the immense support for the school within the community. Without the disclosure of confidential or personally sensitive information, I was updated on actions taken by School Management and the Chair of Governors relating both to the petition and to concerns raised individually by parents. The meeting was undertaken in a collegial and professional manner. With regard to the proposals under consideration for addressing the projected budget deficit, it was agreed that all parties sought the best outcome for the School, recognising the current challenges; however, by the end of the meeting it was clear that we continued to disagree about the best way to address these challenges and I noted the intention to hold a public meeting to discuss both ways of supporting the school now and in the future, as well as alternatives to the proposed cuts. The Head Teacher, Deputy Head and Chair of Governors were all invited to attend the meeting or, if they did not believe it appropriate to attend, to submit a written statement to be read out at the meeting.”

This meeting is taking place at The Cottage Hotel on Easthorpe Street on Wednesday June 5th between 7 and 9pm. You can find full details >>HERE<<.

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