UK’s largest academy trust’s caretaker cuts pose serio...

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

09 May 2017

Some schools face losing 50 per cent of site staff under academy chain’s 'controversial' plans released today

Education unions, including Unite, issued a warning over plans announced today (Tuesday 9 May) by an academy chain to slash £1.4 million from its schools’ estates budgets.

Under the plan the London-based Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) proposes to cut the number of buildings and estates staff in schools by over 25 per cent 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 per cent  with one earmarked to lose two-thirds of its site staff.

Education unions are warning of the impact the cuts will have on the safe running of schools.

To date the trust has not even 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, which will undermine the ability of individual heads and principals to make urgent decisions in the best interests of their pupils and staff, say the unions.

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

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."

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.”

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."

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 reorganisations 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 Unite, GMB, Unison, ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT, the NUT and ATL.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.


Twitter: @unitetheunion
Facebook: unitetheunion1

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.