Parents are threatening the academy trust which runs a Blackheath school with legal action over plans to cut 27 jobs in its special educational needs department.
United Learning wants to make 24 support staff and three teachers redundant at John Roan School’s SEN department. Only 12 posts will remain out of 32, with the 24 fired staff invited to reapply for new support roles.
The trust, which took over the school two years ago, says it wants to create more specialised roles to better suit the needs of children in the department, including the 16 in its dedicated unit for autism.
Parents – many of whom chose John Roan because of its SEN provision – are raising money to challenge the decision in court, accusing United Learning of not consulting them properly. The main teaching union says United Learning is rushing through its proposals, and that its “quality first teaching” plans are untested.
The National Education Union (NEU) says that while redundancy consultations should allow 30 working days, United Learning is only allowing 17 days, and has only shared limited financial information about the school’s position.
“Our worry is that SEN provision in John Roan School will collapse in September,” said Tim Woodcock, the NEU’s Greenwich branch secretary. “The consultation is too late and there is too little time to adequately train the remaining staff and teachers before 1 September.
“I have been the secretary for many years and no other school has carried out a redundancy consultation after half term because there is not enough time. This is simply a fait accompli and sham consultation.”
Some 30 families are affected by the planned cuts. One parent, Jenny Huggett, said: “Children with special educational needs need love, compassion, understanding and nurturing. The school’s amazing teachers and support staff have helped them be the best they can be in life.
“How can the school suggest our children’s needs can be met with 20 less staff, including counsellors and pastoral key workers? It feels like finance is coming before their education and development.”
United Learning took over the 300-year-old school amid strikes and protests after it was branded “inadequate” by inspectors, prompting the government to order it to become an academy.
When asked for comment, United Learning directed 853 to a letter sent to parents last month, which said that the proposals had been made after “an independent review, along with significant research”. The trust said it would still fulfil the education, health and care plans that set out the support each student can expect.
“All of our staff would receive training on the ways in which they can best support students with SEN in their roles in the school,” it said in the letter. “In particular, the evidence is strong that high quality teaching in the mainstream classroom is the most effective way to ensure all students, especially those with SEN, are able to progress and thrive.”
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