COUNCIL bosses need to address how the Grange Federation has one of the highest management costs in the town according to a trade union.

The GMB, which represents school support staff, has called upon Swindon Borough Council to urgently step in to resolve what it describes as “chaotic management” at Grange Infant School and Grange Junior School.

Both are Swindon Borough Council schools and have been made into a Federation in order to drive up standards.

Between the two schools, there is a total of 84 staff, including 28 teachers and 29 teaching assistants, three head teachers and a business manager.

According to the GMB, this means that per pupil, the Grange Federation has amongst the highest management costs in Swindon.

GMB regional organiser Carole Vallelly said: “The school administration is in chaos. Every month the payroll goes wrong, with staff regularly paid the wrong amount. This month one staff member was even paid someone else’s salary. Staff have either not been given contracts, or given the wrong contracts, and some don’t have job descriptions for their duties.

“Very alarmingly, parents may be surprised to learn that several lessons each week are taught by teaching assistants, with no teacher in the classroom. GMB have challenged this, as we believe that the school is acting outside of the Department of Education’s guidance, because such arrangements are not supposed to be permanent, and the teaching assistants are supposed to be acting under the direction of a teacher. In this case, the arrangement is permanent, and the ‘direction’ from a teacher is utterly inadequate, with notes being passed to unprepared teaching assistants literally just a few minutes before they step into the classroom.

“How are the schools able to afford additional levels of management, but not able to afford a professional teacher in every classroom?

“Grange Federation has now told staff that they are starting the process of joining a Multi Academy Trust, yet trade unions were not invited to the meeting, and were not consulted. GMB is concerned because for all the current chaos, as long as they are Swindon Borough Council schools, the management are accountable not only to the council officers, but to the elected councillors. As soon as they become part of an academy, then they are accountable to no one, and the disproportionate management costs will be put beyond challenge.”

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “A meeting was held with staff at the Grange Federation, organised by governors and the school leadership, to keep staff informed about the possible move of the school to academy status. This is a normal procedure and unions would be consulted as part of any planned change if it goes ahead. The Council supports the potential change to academy status and the improvements it may bring to the school.

“The Council has been working closely with the school to address administration issues and will continue to do so. The current school management structure is a normal one for a federation of two separate schools and does not have three headteachers. It has two heads of school and an executive headteacher who has overall responsibility for both schools.

“We recognise the professionalism and commitment of the teaching assistants, teaching staff and school leadership. They deserve full support for their hard work and commitment to the pupils in the school.”