Union criticises four-day consultation on redundancies

The National Union of Teachers has criticised a school for its “sham” consultation on making several staff redundant.

Nicholas Breakspear Catholic School in St Albans (pictured), Hertfordshire, wrote to staff days before they broke for the Easter holidays informing them of its plan to make compulsory redundancies to help to balance the books.

It is believed 10 posts face the axe by the end of term. Consultation closes on April 24, four days after teachers get back from their break.

Hilary Bucky, regional secretary for the Eastern NUT, told Schools Week: “We are aware of the situation and are concerned about the lateness of the announcement and the very short consultation period.

“We will obviously be opposed to any compulsory redundancies.

“The main thing that concerns me is how late they are in starting the consultation. Only lasting three or four working days – it’s not much of a consultation. It’s a bit of a sham.

“That’s what I’ll be objecting to. If they want to have a meaningful consultation, they need to allow more time.”

Ms Bucky said the proposed staff redundancies would be made by September. It is believed the school has told staff it needs to reduce a £500,000 deficit.

“It’s hard to understand how you can suddenly at the beginning of April realise you have a deficit of that amount. It doesn’t happen overnight,” Ms Bucky said. “They could have started discussing this a long time ago.”

The school is run by the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust. It did not respond to request for comment from Schools Week.

But a statement released on behalf of the school to The Hertfordshire Advertiser read: “A redundancy consultation process has started on proposals to align expenditure to income and that process will continue after the Easter holiday. No final decisions have been made.”

It is not known if the school had applied for emergency funding before it considered redundancies.

The Department for Education can help to cover deficit funding on a case-by-case basis. It is only provided in “rare circumstances where schools are facing significant financial pressures” and where a “robust and affordable” recovery plan is in place.

The school was rated as inadequate by Ofsted in November 2013 and was given a “requires improvement” in November last year. A section five inspection last
month noted “effective action” was being taken to improve.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Declan Linnane said: “Our plan for moving to good and beyond prioritises the areas which require improvement. Staff and governors share these priorities and remain committed to the hard work necessary to make these a reality for the good of our students.”

According to the November 2013 school workforce census, the school has an equivalent of 41.6 full-time teachers and 5.1 teaching assistants. It has a ratio of 16.6 pupils per teacher, above the national average of 15.


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