‘Vote of no confidence’ as trust to lose 43 staff amid financial turmoil

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Chronicle Live

The academy trust runs Kenton School as well as Studio West school in West Denton, and says falling school funding has left it with a budget shortfall, The Chronicle Live reports.

Teachers have issued a vote of no confidence, as an academy chain which runs one of Newcastle’s biggest schools is forced to lose staff.

The Kenton Schools Multi Academy Trust oversees Kenton School, as well as Studio West school, in West Denton.

Facing a £356,000 budget deficit, it’s set to cut 43 roles among teaching and support staff by the next academic year across its workforce of 275.

Leaders say this will mean not renewing 13 fixed-term contracts which are coming to an end, as well as redeployment and managing “natural year-on-year turnover”.

But they acknowledge some redundancies are possible.

Following the announcement, members of the National Education Union (NEU) at Kenton School unanimously agreed to a vote of no confidence in “the strategic leadership and financial management of the school”.

But Kevin McDermid, interim CEO of the academy trust, said responsibility for the problems lay with trust managers, not the governors or head at Kenton school.

Of these, the former chief executive retired in August, while the chair of the trust and another director resigned at the end of December.

Mr McDermid said the trust has now appointed a new chair, a new interim CEO, a new director of finance and two new directors/trustees with “extensive experience of school organisation and financial management”.

He added: “We understand completely why members of NEU are angry and why they are questioning how this situation has arisen.”

He said the deficit carried over was less than three per cent of the trust’s £13m budget. He blamed “national cuts in education funding” alongside rising costs for depleting the trust’s cash reserves.

It’s also understood that the £1m slice of Kenton School’s budget handed straight to the company that built it as part of its PFI (private finance initiative) contract has contributed to financial pressures on the trust.

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Now, leaders say a plan to turn the trust’s finances around has been approved by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Mr McDermid said: “We have submitted a detailed recovery plan to the ESFA and they have expressed complete confidence in that plan.”

In a letter addressed to parents at Kenton School earlier this month, leaders insisted they were trying to reduce the impact of staff losses on students as much as possible.

The letter said: “Whilst all our staff contribute to the experience of our students at Kenton, we have worked hard to ensure that we retain posts that focus on delivering quality first teaching and our key aims of ensuring strong outcomes for all our students.”

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