Union raises safety fears as Ormiston considers support staff redundancies

A union representing support staff at Ormiston Academies Trust has warned plans to cut caretaking and maintenance jobs could leave pupils and staff “at risk”.

Unison has accused the trust, which runs 38 schools across the country, of failing to give enough thought to the health, safety and welfare impact of its restructuring plans, which the union claims could affect more than 130 posts across its schools.

It has called on Ormiston to halt its plans until a full assessment and proper consultation can take place, and criticised it for setting aside “barely a month to decide the future of staff”.

However, Ormiston has insisted health and safety has remained a key focus and disputed the number of jobs alleged to be cut, saying no final decisions will be made until its current consultation is complete.

In 2017-18, Ormiston paid its chief executive and accounting officer Nick Hudson £184,160, and Mark Stanyer, a trustee and principal of Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, £134,800. Accounts for last year are not yet available, but Schools Week revealed last December that Ormiston was one of 50 trusts to tell the Department for Education it had cut executive pay following pressure from officials.

Also in 2017-18, Ormiston was lent £1.1 million by the government to help “cash flow management” after taking on two schools built under private finance initiatives. Between April 2017 and February 2019 it received donations worth £2.7 million from charitable trusts and National Lottery-funded organisations.

The trust has been in the spotlight this month, after Ofsted warned that pupils at Ormiston Denes Academy in Suffolk were being off-rolled and rated the school ‘inadequate’. Ormiston has since been warned the school could be moved to a different sponsor.

Unison said the trust plans to “axe or relocate vital support staff roles” across its network, as well as cutting a number of ICT jobs, with workers due to find out their fate before Christmas. It has alleged Ormiston plans to replace on-site caretaking and maintenance teams with a slimmed-down force working across multiple sites.

Jon Richards, head of education at Unison, called on Ormiston to halt its plans and “set aside a more realistic amount of time to consult with unions about a plan that affects the lives of hundreds of workers, and many more pupils and parents.”

“Time and time again we’ve seen large organisations impose cost-cutting measures that sound good in the boardroom, but in the real world lead to poorer services, low morale, unemployment and, in this case, safety risks.”

A spokesperson for Ormiston said the cuts were being made as part of its ‘transforming our trust’ programme, which will “enable us to do even more and make an even bigger positive difference to pupils”.

She said the trust has opened a consultation on current staffing and operational structures, and insisted the process has “included provision for the most robust health and safety standards going forward”, saying it would be “irresponsible and entirely wrong to even suggest we would compromise on this”.

 “No decisions on the future structure have been made because we are still in a consultation period with our staff and trade onions and we are very keen to hear the views of all interested parties – but we are very clear that any redundancies will be nowhere near what has been quoted.”