Cuts to staffing levels in East Lancashire schools ‘inevitable’

Credit: This story was first seen on the Lancashire Telegraph

School leaders and unions have warned that cuts to staffing levels in East Lancashire’s schools are ‘inevitable’ as budgets are slashed, the Lancashire Telegraph reports.

Simon Jones, Lancashire representative with the National Union of Teachers, said several schools were in various stages of consultation about reducing the number of posts.

While the director of education for the Blackburn Diocese warned the budgets for schools with sixth forms had been ‘decimated’ and class sizes in general could go up once school reserves were used.

They spoke out as Unison Lancashire accused one school of ‘hurrying through a consultation process’, claiming teaching assistants had been told if they do not accept a pay cut there could be compulsory redundancies.

In the post, which has been shared dozens of times on Facebook, Unison accuses Barrowford Primary School headteacher Rachel Tomlinson and the governors of wasting thousands of pounds on ‘rebranding’, on expensive away days for senior leaders and unnecessary additional human resources costs.

In an appeal to parents it states: “The headteacher and governing body are rushing through cuts that will decimate the level of support provided in the day-to-day teaching and support for your child. These cuts in levels of support will result in fewer adults in a classroom, less educational support, less behaviour support, poor staff morale, loss of goodwill, less flexibility at times of staff absences and less breadth of knowledge.

“The options for many teaching assistants is stark and will result in either massive pay cuts or redundancy – committed staff who care about the pupils they work with live in your community.”

Simon Jones, Lancashire representative with the National Union of Teachers, said: “Almost every school is worried about their budget.

“Within the last year we have dealt with 13 redundancy situations in Blackburn with Darwen. Most ended up with voluntary redundancies or people leaving and not being replaced.

“We know from the schools forum that there are lots of schools using their reserves. Some are managing at the moment but you can only spend those reserves once.”

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Richard Jones, headteacher at St Christopher’s CE High School in Accrington, said: “In real terms between 2015 and 2020 we are seeing an eight per cent cut. Schools are expected to cover additional costs such as national insurance and pension payments. They are receiving no additional funds. These are just expected to be absorbed.”

He said when 80% of a school’s budget was spent on staffing it was inevitable cuts would have an impact on the workforce.

“We are in the position at St Christopher’s of each time a member of staff leaves thinking very carefully about whether we can staff that vacancy within existing staff.”

Stephen Whittaker, the director of education for the Blackburn Diocese, said the budgets for schools with sixth forms especially had been ‘decimated’ over the years.

He said: “Sixth forms are looking at whether they can run as many courses as they once did and are desperate to make sure their provision stays at a high quality. Our schools are certainly struggling in terms of reducing the number of options. If there are not 15 or more students signing up to a course that subject will go.”

Across other schools staff are not being replaced, he said.

“The impact is that some of the support given to children with specific needs or children with no English, for example, is made much harder without teaching assistants. It can have an impact on meeting these children’s needs.”

He added schools would see class sizes go up and redundancies would be inevitable once reserves are used.

Jacqui Young, headteacher at St Stephen’s CE Primary School in Blackburn, said: “I am in a school cluster and I know about 50% of those schools are looking at significant cuts. I would be looking at being very cautious if a member of staff leaves about replacing them unless there is a desperate need.”