In other schools, TAs are valued, but the management of Chisledon doesn’t seem to value them, says GMB Southern
GMB, the trade union for school support staff, has warned that proposed job cuts at Chisledon Primary School will result in dangerously low staffing levels that will put both pupils and staff at risk. The union will be running a vigorous campaign to reverse the job cuts.
Chisledon school currently has 7 teaching assistants (TAs), and an apprentice. This will be reduced to just 3 teaching assistants from September, and there will also be one fewer qualified teacher.
GMB trade union has questioned why the school could afford 7 Teaching assistants in 2014, when the current head teacher Spencer Allen started there, but can now only afford 3. For the last two last two years the school has been running a nursery in Penhill, and is running free buses between the two sites.
GMB has written to the Swindon Borough Council seeking talks to find a solution, and was surprised to be informed that instead of talks, the matter has been referred to the council’s legal department to draft a response to the union.
GMB has pointed out that the governors are prioritising luxuries over maintaining basic staff levels to maintain safety, and to support pupils who need extra help. The trade union has demonstrated to the school that using TAs instead of private sector music lessons to cover for teachers during lesson preparation time would save £7000, making a significant cost saving, and saving jobs.
Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary, explains:
“The school will be operating on what is literally the minimum possible staffing, with one teacher per class of children working without a Teaching Assistant, and the Deputy Headteacher & Headteacher will also be responsible for a full class. One TA will be permanently in reception, and the other two TAs will be tied up with small group work outside the classroom. Clearly, many pupils at the school who currently benefit from the help of a teaching assistant will be getting a worse education from September.
“Personally, if I was a parent in Chisledon, I would seriously worry about sending my child to the school if these job cuts go ahead.
“If there is an incident in any classroom, then the teacher would have to leave their class of up to 30 pupils, including abandoning the children involved in the incident, to go to another classroom to seek assistance, which would involve that teacher leaving their class as well.
“GMB has on several occasions drawn attention to the rising problems of violence in Swindon schools. Just in the last few weeks, a pupil at Chisledon has thrown a chair at a teacher on more than one occasion. Yet the head teacher has advised GMB that only once in the last 5 years has a teacher asked for assistance, this is not consistent with what staff and teachers in the school are telling their unions.
“GMB is particularly concerned of the culture in this school, where one member of the school’s leadership team recently told TAs that they could be replaced with an Alexa device. In other schools, TAs are valued, but the management of Chisledon doesn’t seem to value them. GMB is even more concerned about this lack of respect for TAs, given that Mr Allen is an Oftsed inspector, who goes into other schools.
“Since Spencer Allen started at the school in 2014 GMB has received a continual stream of complaints about overbearing management style. Although it is a small school, an incredible 32 staff have left during that time. We have also seen an increasing number of parents who would prefer to drive to Albourne or Wroughton schools, rather than walk around the corner to their local village school.
“We are also very concerned about the complacency of Swindon Borough Council. GMB wrote to them a week ago seeking talks about how we could get together to help this school overcome its difficulties, and raising legitimate concerns about pupil and staff safety; yet we have had no official response, and have been told that instead of constructive dialogue, the Borough Council will be sending us a solicitor’s letter. Frankly, the Council’s staff and parents deserve a better response than that.”