DOZENS of teachers and support staff face the axe at Swindon Academy in a jobs cull described as the most severe ever contemplated at a school in the town.
The flagship academy, which caters for children of primary and secondary age, wants to shed 30 classroom assistant roles and six other support staff along with an unspecified number of teaching posts, Unison said yesterday.
Parents were told last week that public sector cuts had necessitated the move and a consultation process had begun with staff to reduce the size of the workforce.
A letter from principal Ruth Robinson read: “Throughout this process, our aim is to look at any initiative that avoids making compulsory redundancies but, unfortunately, this cannot be guaranteed.
“The transition to the new staffing structure will, of course, be handled extremely carefully to make sure that our students’ day-to-day learning is unaffected.”
The school’s management is understood to believe that while educational standards have risen, staffing levels have remained untypically high, and many employees might leave without being made redundant.
Mrs Robinson did not reveal how many posts were threatened but described the academy’s aim as being to ‘introduce a way that allows us to continue improving provision for our students, maintain our community support and accelerate the rate of progress that our children make’.
The letter ended: “We are addressing these issues now to ensure that our future as an academy is secure and sustainable. It is not a pleasant task to undertake but one that we know is essential now in order to give the academy the brightest future.”
The proposals include reducing 48 teaching assistant posts to 27 at primary level and from 26 to 17 at secondary, according to Unison. The other employees represented by the public service union – which has 100 members at the academy – occupy back-up roles outside the classroom. Teachers are being represented by their own unions.
Unison branch secretary Bob Cretchley said: “This is the biggest set of potential redundancies we have ever seen at a school in Swindon.
“The staff involved are going through the consultation process involving us, the teaching unions and the academy. We are offering all the support we can to our members, both individually and collectively, through this very difficult process.”
The restructuring is planned for before the start of the next school year.
Mr Cretchley said: “This level of redundancies will be difficult to deal with by voluntary means.
“It may whittle it down a little bit but it is inevitable there will be compulsory redundancies.
“You can argue about figures and increasing roles over coming years but the bottom line is that if you lose that number of staff it is inevitably going to have an impact on pupils’ education at an academy which serves some of the most deprived areas in Swindon.”
The school, run across two sites in Beech Avenue and Alton Close, was one of the Government’s flagship academies at the time of its launch in 2007, and the first to cater for infants right through to 19-year-olds.
A spokesman for the academy said: “We are currently consulting on restructuring the staffing structure at the academy to achieve better educational outcomes for our students.
“However, in common with other schools in Swindon and across the country we need to work within the budget we have to ensure the financial stability and sustainability of the academy.
“We are looking at every avenue which would avoid compulsory redundancies.
“While at present we cannot make any guarantees about how the consultation will ultimately impact on job numbers, we are confident that the restructuring exercise can be concluded in ways which will enhance the improving educational standards at the academy.”