Union votes to strike over cuts at Hackney schools

Hackney North members joined parents and schoolchildren, representatives from Hackney NEU, UNISON and UNITE to protest the...

A protest of the cuts in support staff at Colvestone Primary School on November 30 last year. - Credit: Colvestone parents

Union members have unanimously voted to strike over proposed job cuts at two schools in Hackney. 

All ten of Unite's members at Colvestone Primary School in Dalston and the Thomas Fairchild Community School in Hoxton voted to strike over a restructuring which includes changes to terms and conditions and could see some employees made redundant.

The Soaring Skies Federation, which educates more than 600 pupils across the two schools, has proposed the plans following a 25 per cent decrease in student intake since 2018.

Unite is liaising with the other unions – GMB, National Education Union (NEU) and Unison - before a strike date is set.

Onay Kasab, Unite's regional officer, said: “Our members have sent a very clear message, with their 100pc vote for strike action, that they are prepared to strike to defend jobs, pay and employment conditions.

“The health crisis has correctly focussed on the importance of education and teaching assistants at Soaring Skies Federation are still working during the current school closures – in many cases, attending school sites to supervise children of key workers, while remote learning takes place.

“The employer now needs to withdraw the proposals to cut jobs immediately, otherwise we will be issuing, very reluctantly, notice of strike days very shortly."

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Caroline King, executive headteacher at Colvestone and Thomas Fairchild schools, said: “While we are sorry to have to reduce the number of support staff roles, we are committed to continuing to provide a high-quality education for our children. Our proposed new staffing model – due to be implemented from March 1, 2021 – will ensure that children continue to get the targeted support they need.

"Government funding for education is allocated on a per-pupil basis, which means that funding declines when the numbers of pupils registered to a school decline, as they are across Hackney."

She said the proposals are helping Soaring Skies balance the budget.

Ms King continued: "We have been working with and listening to unions, with all affected staff offered voluntary redundancy.

"It is with sadness that we note members have chosen to strike but we will continue to ensure our children receive a quality education without disruption if industrial action is taken by Unite members."

READ MORE: Parents gather to protest Hackney schools’ support staff cuts