Children at a school in Swindon face having their education disrupted by strike action.

The GMB trade union, which represents support staff – including teaching assistants – in schools, has 'demanded' urgent talks with Swindon Borough Council about cuts at Chiseldon Primary School.

The union says the school is losing five teaching assistants, from eight to three, in September.

It said: “Each class – some with up to 30 pupils – will only have a single, unaccompanied teacher. GMB has campaigned over the issue of rising levels of violence in schools and the union expresses deep concerns that the measures that the school is proposing, whereby teachers can summon help by telephone message to the reception desk, just won’t work.”

Andy Newman, GMB branch secretary, said: “Let me be absolutely clear, GMB believes that the proposed staffing levels at Chiseldon School from this September would put both staff and pupils at risk. In our professional opinion, the school will simply not be safe.

“GMB has been raising our concerns privately, and behind closed doors, with Swindon Borough Council for several weeks, but we have been forced to go public because the school has just proceeded full steam ahead.

“Swindon Borough Council has tried to pressurise GMB not to go to the press, but we believe that we have a moral and ethical duty to speak out in the interests of safety.

“GMB is not balloting for industrial action yet, but it is being actively considered, and we are discussing the prospect with the other trade unions.

“GMB is deeply frustrated by the failure of Swindon Borough Council to take our concerns seriously. Swindon Borough Council has been asked for talks by GMB, but has refused to pause the job cuts to allow those talks to proceed. This means that the jobs would already be lost before any talks have even got started.

“What is of particular concern is that, despite several requests from GMB, neither Swindon Borough Council, nor Chiseldon School, have been prepared to explain what is different about the finances of this particular school. "

The union added that if the measures proposed at Chiseldon went through, that other schools in the borough could be facing the same cuts.

Mr Newman continued: "If nothing is different, then every school in Swindon is at risk of similar levels of job cuts, that will compromise safety and educational standards across the town, as well as putting hundreds of jobs at risk.”

But the borough council, which is responsible for funding and running the school says there is no evidence that the drop in teaching assistant numbers would leave staff or pupils unsafe.

A council spokesman said: “Chiseldon School is a good school serving its local community well, as it has done for many years. All schools need to maintain a balanced budget and not go into deficit and Chiseldon School is no different in this respect.

“Proper consultation has taken place, as the GMB knows, and the school has reluctantly had to make some difficult budget decisions. Delaying any decisions will cause the school more financial difficulty and probably make the budgetary position worse rather than better.

“The council has already provided the school with additional funds to support it in the short term.

“The GMB states that the schools will be unsafe, however there is no evidence to support this. Class sizes are mostly small and the school has carried out a risk assessment to ensure the safety of staff and pupils – no other union has expressed concerns about safety in the school and pupil behaviour is managed well.”

The council also disputes the union's version of events that it wouldn’t listen to its concerns, or that it tried to gag the workers’ organisation: “Furthermore, the GMB has already met with the school on two occasions to discuss its concerns. The council is not in a position to tell a trade union not to publicise its concerns.

“In terms of the GMB conference on violence in schools, council officers have asked on several occasions for details of the GMB survey carried out at the time, but this has not been forthcoming. Despite this, a letter was sent to all schools by the council last year raising the issue of violence in schools, which was welcomed by the GMB at the time.

“Finally, we would wish the pupils and staff at Chiseldon School a great summer term and the best of luck in the summer Key Stage 2 Year 6 assessments.”