Strike action looms over plans to axe more than half the teaching support staff at two east London primary schools as ministers stress the importance of education, Unite the union, warned today (Friday 15 January).

Unite has 10 members at the Colvestone primary school and the Thomas Fairchild community school and they have voted unanimously for strikes over restructuring plans which include changes to terms and conditions, and redundancies.

The schools are part of the Hackney-based Soaring Skies Federation which educates more than 600 children and Unite said there are potentially more than 18 jobs at risk out of the about 30-strong teaching support staff.

The federation claims that the reason for the restructuring is that there are falling numbers of pupils attending the school, but Unite disputes this, saying its members now have more time to spend with often disadvantaged children.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “One of the major areas of concern during the pandemic has been the impact on children and their education.

“Ministers from Boris Johnson downwards have repeatedly stressed the importance of education during the pandemic as the key to enhanced life chances.

“However, the bosses at Soaring Skies Federation don’t appear to have got the prime ministerial ‘memo’. Cutting school staff will only exacerbate the impact on the education of our children

“Our members have sent a very clear message, with their 100 per cent vote for strike action, that they are prepared to strike to defend jobs, pay and employment conditions.

“The health crisis has correctly focussed on the importance of education and teaching assistants at Soaring Skies Federation are still working during the current school closures – in many cases, attending school sites to supervise children of key workers, while remote learning takes place.

“The employer now needs to withdraw the proposals to cut jobs immediately, otherwise we will be issuing, very reluctantly, notice of strike days very shortly.”

Unite is liaising in the protests with the other unions concerned about the plans – GMB, National Education Union (NEU) and Unison.


Notes to editors:                                              

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