UK’s largest academy trust’s caretaker cuts pose serious risk to pupils, say unions

Some schools face losing 50% of caretaking staff under an academy chain’s ‘controversial’ plans released today (Tuesday).

Education unions have issued a warning over plans by London-based Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) to slash £1.4 million from its schools’ estates budgets.

Under the plan AET is proposing to cut the number of buildings and estates staff in schools by over 25%, resulting in at least 34 redundancies across its 66 primary, special and secondary academies.

Schools across the UK are affected – including those in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Gloucester and Milton Keynes.

Some schools would see the number of caretakers cut by 50%, with one earmarked to lose two-thirds of its estates staff.

Education unions are warning of the impact the cuts will have on the safe running of schools. To date the trust has not provided the unions with a health and safety risk assessment of its plans.

The unions are calling on AET to halt the plan immediately in favour of a proper period of genuine consultation with the schools, staff, and parents.

As part of its cuts plans, the trust is also proposing to take the management of site staff and estates budgets away from schools. This will undermine the ability of individual heads and principals to make urgent decisions in the best interests of their pupils and staff, say unions.

AET’s recently appointed chief executive Julian Drinkall is reportedly receiving an annual salary of £240,000 [3] despite Ofsted warnings over executive pay at academy chains such as AET [4].

Jon Richards, UNISON head of education, said: “This is the second academy chain in a matter of weeks to announce huge cuts and it won’t be the last, as government funding cuts bite.

“For schools to provide a safe environment for children, estates employees must be available on site around the clock. These cuts will mean lots of extra work for remaining staff, which will have a massive impact on what they are able to do. It will put pupils at risk.”

Sharon Wilde, GMB national officer for schools said: “It is completely unacceptable that our dedicated members should be asked to pay the price for this academy chain’s mistakes with ill-thought through cuts to front line jobs at the heart of our communities – these controversial plans are putting children at risk.

“AET must immediately halt this dangerous scheme in favour of a proper period of genuine consultation with schools, staff, and parents.”

Fiona Farmer, Unite national officer, said: “Once again we are seeing a threat to children’s education and our members’ livelihoods as another academy trust pursues its flawed financial strategy.

“We call upon AET to engage in meaningful talks with all parties and halt this damaging process.”

Kevin Courtney, general secretary, National Union of Teachers, said: “This is an irresponsible plan which shows a lack of appreciation of the vital front-line services it will affect.

“Schools should not be run like this, with a remote and highly-paid tier of management failing to consult over changes that will affect pupil safety.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “These ill-conceived and rushed proposals need a serious re-think.

“The scale of the changes and cutting so many caretakers will have major detrimental implications for pupils and all school staff, and ATL calls upon AET to think again.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary NAHT, said: “These proposals will have major impact on schools and may have serious health and safety implications for pupils and staff.

“Proper consultation needs to take place with the staff and school leaders to ensure such key services are fit for purpose.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Despite assurances from the trust that it would address the concerns we raised before going ahead with its proposals, this has not happened.

”Major re-organisations of this nature must be prepared for thoroughly, so that the end result is fit for purpose: something AET has failed to do.”

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “The NASUWT is concerned about any proposed job losses.

“It is unacceptable to compromise the health, safety and welfare of pupils and staff and we believe that AET should radically rethink these proposals.”

Notes to editors: 
– The eight unions involved are GMB, UNISON, Unite, ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT, the NUT and ATL.
–  The following schools are affected by the proposals:

Winton Community Academy Andover Hampshire
Ashingdon Primary Academy Ashingdon Essex
Meadstead Primary Academy Barnsley
Shafton Primary Academy Barnsley
St Helen’s Primary Academy Barnsley
Pioneer School Basildon Essex
Everest Community Academy Basingstoke Hampshire
Bexleyheath Academy Bexleyheath
Four Dwellings Primary Academy Birmingham
Greenwood Academy Birmingham
Lea Forest Primary Academy Birmingham
Montgomery Primary Academy Birmingham
Percy Shurmer Primary Academy Birmingham
Feversham Primary Academy Bradford
Broadlands Academy Bristol
Anglesey Primary Academy Burton on Trent Staffs
Columbus School and College Chelmsford Essex
The Ridge (formerly Amberley Ridge BESN) Cheltenham Gloucs
Offa’s Mead Primary Academy Chepstow Gloucs
Clacton Coastal Academy Clacton on Sea Essex
St James the Great Primary Academy East Malling Kent
Felixstowe Academy Felixstowe
Langer Primary Academy Felixstowe Suffolk
Tendring Technology College, an AET Academy Frinton on Sea Essex
Brockworth Primary Academy Gloucester
Millbrook Academy Gloucester
Greensward Academy Hockley Essex
Plumberow Primary Academy Hockley Essex
Westerings Primary Academy Hockley Essex
New Forest Academy Holbury Southampton
Kingsley Academy Hounslow Middlesex
Hall Road Academy Hull
Kingswood Academy Hull
Newington Academy Hull East Yorkshire
The Green Way Academy Hull
Cottingley Primary Academy Leeds
Swallow Hill Community College Leeds
Aylward Academy London
Nightingale Academy London
Noel Park Primary School London
Richmond Park Academy London
Trinity Primary Academy London
Beacon Primary Academy (formerly Shelthorpe Community School) Loughborough
Cordeaux Academy Louth
Utterby Primary Academy (part of federation with North Thoresby), Louth Louth
Caldicotes Primary Academy Middlesbrough
Hillsview Academy (Formerly Eston Park & Gillbrook Academies) Middlesbrough
North Ormesby Primary Academy Middlesbrough
Unity City Academy Middlesbrough
Charles Warren Academy Milton Keynes
Sir Herbert Leon Academy Milton Keynes
North Thoresby Primary School (part of federation with Utterby), Grimsby North Thoresby Grimsby
Newlands Academy Peckham Rye London
Four Dwellings Academy Quinton Birmingham
Ryde Academy Ryde IOW
Sandown Bay Academy Sandown IOW
Firth Park Academy Sheffield
Severn View Primary Academy (formerly Parliament) Stroud Gloucs
Hazelwood Academy Swindon Wiltshire
Tamworth Enterprise College Tamworth Staffs
The Rawlett School, An AET Academy Tamworth Staffs
Barton Hill Academy Torquay Devon
Hamford Primary Academy Walton on the Naze Essex
Maltings Academy Witham Essex
New Rickstones Academy Witham Essex
Wishmore Cross Academy Woking Surrey



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