GMB: Ark’s wealthy donors should bail out their struggling school

Wealthy supporters of one of England’s largest academy trusts should dip into their own pockets to help a struggling school avert 38 job losses, a union has said.

The GMB union – which represents school support staff – has urged Ark Schools to call off redundancy proposals at Burlington Danes Academy in Shepherds Bush in London.

Now Keith Williams, GMB’s senior organiser for the capital, says Ark’s two “most prolific” trustees Sir Paul Marshall and Lord Stanley Fink should “dip into their personal sums to bail the school out”.

Marshall, Ark’s chair and a founding trustee, received a knighthood in 2016 for services to education and philanthropy. He was also a non-executive board member for the Department for Education from 2013 until 2016. Lord Fink is a former Conservative party treasurer who has worked in the hedge fund industry.

According to GMB, reorganisation proposals mean support staff will “bear the brunt” of financial cutbacks.

“Our schools are facing the biggest funding shortages in England since the 1990s. Burlington Danes Academy’s financial forecast shows that they will face deficits in the four years from 2018-19,” Williams said.

“If low-paid support staff who live in the local area are faced with losing their jobs to reduce the projected deficit, it raises the question: either Ark went into this with their eyes closed, or they knew full well that it would not be financially viable in the long term.”

A spokesperson for ARK Schools said the trust is “currently consulting” with the unions and staff at Ark Burlington Danes Academy on a proposed restructure, which aims to “better align to the educational needs of the school” and “ensure its long-term financial sustainability”.

“Like all schools, Ark Burlington Danes is facing a challenging financial landscape of increased costs and real-terms decreases to funding,” she said.

“Although as many as 38 posts are potentially affected by this restructure, this number includes the addition of 22 new posts and we are working with support staff to move from existing roles into new ones whenever possible.

“We are currently consulting on these proposed changes and we are committed to working with staff and their representatives to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible.”

GMB believes the restructure and resulting redundancies “will have a negative impact on the local community”.

“Academies are all too often top-heavy with senior leadership teams on obscenely high salaries while asset-stripping low paid support staff. Burlington Danes Academy is no different,” Williams said.

A Schools Week investigation into executive pay at the largest academy chains in March this year revealed the salary of Lucy Heller, the chief executive of Ark Schools, rose to £191,017 for 2017-18, up from £187,272 the previous year. Half of Ms Heller’s salary comes from Ark Schools and the other half comes from Ark schools’ parent charity – Ark – which is not public funds.

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  1. Keith Williams is wrong to ask philanthropists to bail out schools they’re involved with. It would be better for unions to lobby for fairer funding for ALL schools rather than encourage a system which results in a tiny number of schools getting extra funding while the majority struggle.

  2. Accounts for ARK Schools for y/e 31 August 2017 show a ‘net operating deficit of £4.1m.
    Seven ARK academies were in deficit on 31 August 2017. Burlington Danes was NOT one of them.
    ARK schools as a whole received £8.5m in ‘voluntary grants’ from Absolute Return for Kids and ‘others’ in 2017.
    In addition, £12.5m is recorded as ‘income’ for buildings ‘constructed directly’ by two LAs: Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) and Croydon. One of the recipients of this was Burlington Danes where H&F provided £5.3m for a new primary building which is now included in the lease for Burlington Danes.
    It seems misleading to describe Burlington Danes as ‘struggling’ when accounts show it had a £2,564,000 fund balance at y/e 31 August 2017 and it’s expanded to become an all-through school with a primary department in a new building.

  3. Mark Watson

    Alternatively, maybe Tim Roache (General Secretary of the GMB union) could forego some of his union package (listed in the 2017 Annual Return as totaling £145,000) to help out.
    To be fair to the GMB though, 2017 was a positively lean year for General Secretaries. In 2016 Tim Roach got £102,000 for 10 months work, whilst Paul Kenny raked in £158,000 for 2 months.
    That £158,000 included a “retirement testimonial” of £113,356. In case you’re interested about what this was I couldn’t find any explanation online whatsoever.
    However, even without that mega-bunce, Paul Kenny received £44,644 for 2 months, equating to an annual income of £267,864.

    • Mark Watson

      Forgot to add, whilst SchoolsWeek is mentioning pay rises, Tim Roache’s remuneration of £102,000 for 10 months work in 2016 equates to an annual figure of £122,400.
      In 2017 his remuneration was shown as being £145,000 – an increase of £22,600 or 18.5%.
      Nice work if you can get it.