Academy chains pursue mass redundancies as budget squeeze spreads

Academy chains pursue mass redundancies as budget squeeze spreads

A third academy chain in as many months has told staff across its schools they face losing their jobs – as the budget squeeze seemingly spreads to multi-academy trusts.

More than 30 teaching posts are reportedly under threat across schools sponsored by the University of Chester Academy Trust (UCAT).

The trust, which runs seven schools, did not comment on figures for potential redundancies and would only say it was “restructuring”.

The announcement follows other chains considering similar large-scale job losses across their schools.

Schools Week reported last week how the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) is undergoing a major restructure across its 21 schools in the Midlands and east of England.

More than 100 staff could face losing or having to reapply for their jobs as part of a savings drive.

In February the Burnt Mill Academy Trust (BMAT) told staff – including teaching assistants – across its six schools they could face the axe.

school budgetsAs Schools Week previously reported (left), heads have said they face an erosion of up £200,000 in their annual budgets once increases in national insurance and pension payment contributions are factored in.

John Tomsett, head of Huntington school in York, last year said he had already made savings “but nothing impacts like cutting into the costs of your staffing. That’s what it’s going to have to be next.”

But rather than individual schools making redundancies, academy chains are now seemingly having to make across-the-board cuts to balance their books.

UCAT, in a statement released to Schools Week, said that pupil numbers at its schools have fallen in the past two years, “but so have numbers at other schools over the same period”.

“The difference with the schools which became UCAT academies is that for the sake of continuity and stability for students, some restructuring was postponed until the academies were better established.”

The spokesperson said UCAT is now “working hard to minimise compulsory redundancies and it is anticipated that the majority of the posts affected can be lost through voluntary means”.

Ian Cleland (pictured right), chief executive of ATT, said schools, academies and multi-academy trusts across the country are all being affected by “significant financial challenges”.

“As a result, it is essential that we review our costs and consider where savings can be made, without impacting on the quality of education.” Ian-Cleland-800x420

Burnt Mill Academy Trust said it is looking to making savings across all its schools to ensure “we have high quality teachers and adults, providing children with opportunities to be highly successful learners”.

“The trust is looking to make savings, like all public sector organisations, to ensure that we use the reducing financial resources to have the greatest impact on the education, wellbeing and safety of our children.”

The academy chain-wide restructures also question ministers’ claims that headteachers in academies have more autonomy.

Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education, told Schools Week that the ATT decision had “completely pulled the rug from under the feet of the trust’s head teachers, undermining them completely”.

Elsewhere, headteachers continue to take to Twitter to share their budget losses and expose the government’s claim that school funding is protected.

The Department for Education said at the time it has “protected the overall core schools budget in real terms, so that as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money in our schools”.

A spokesperson added that the new national funding formula would ensure schools in areas with the highest need attract extra funding.