Academies Treat Support Staff as ‘Luxuries’

The government’s drive to convert schools to Academies is threatening the jobs and working conditions of the most vulnerable members of school communities, according to the GMB union.

School support staff are frequently the first group of employees to have their jobs and terms and conditions threatened, says GMB following a new analysis of official data which shows that less than nine per cent of primaries and 42.5 per cent of secondary schools in England have applied for Academy status.

GMB school pic“GMB as the union for school support staff is closely monitoring the steady stream of Academy conversions as we are always concerned for our members when schools leave the State system,” said GMB National Officer Avril Chambers.

“Too often with conversions to Academies, support staff are viewed as an educational ‘luxury’, despite their vital contribution to education and learning outcomes and the day-to-day running of a school.”

The GMB found that 1,497 of the 16,784 state primary schools in England have applied to become academies by June 2013, 8.9 per cent of the total, whereas 1,396 of the 3,281 secondaries have opted for the Academy route.

“They are being forced to do this by government policy and it is leaving schools in the hands of individual head teachers and boards of governors with no accountability to the local community, they do not have to listen to the public or parents,” said Chambers.

“It is our experience that support staff are frequently the first group of school staff to have their jobs and terms and conditions threatened. GMB strongly defends all school support staff and believes they should be more highly respected for all that they do.

“GMB is committed to doing all it can to ensure that attacks from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, do not translate into targeting the most vulnerable members of the school community.”

The GMB’s analysis also found that the region with the highest proportion of applications for Academy status was the east Midlands where 14.8 per cent of primaries and 51.2 per cent of secondaries are looking to convert. The region of England with the least interest in Academy status is the north west where just 3.8 per cent of primary schools and 29.4 per cent of secondaries have applied.

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More details can be found here.

See also ‘Academies and Lies’ and ‘Are Co-operative Schools the Answer?’

1 Comment

  1. Ernie Jacques
    9 July 2013

    I read this article on the GMB report, headed ‘Acadamies Treat Support Staff as Luxuries’, with a deep sense of déjà vu. Sadly this is par-for-the-course in workplaces today where junior staff are all too often under-appreciated, undervalued and underpaid. Whenever school and business reorganisation takes place you can be sure that, as a general rule:
    • it will involve job losses
    • those at the bottom will face redundancy and worsening employment conditions
    • those at the top will often benefit with huge, sometime obscene, pay rises
    • those at the top will cream every last penny they can from the business in terms of improvements to their own conditions of employment, share options, golden goodbyes and pension pots
    • ideas of community, co-operation, and collective self-help will be systematically undermined as being old hat in favour of selfish individualism and the “I’m all right, Jack” philosophy
    • trade union representatives will be marginalised and bought-off, and those who resist and/or won’t change will be bad-mouthed, sacked and labelled as dinosaurs and yesterday’s men, who are in a time warp for failing to adapt to the new realities and the very latest business models
    • in the public sector the new focus will become market-orientated towards consumerism at the expense of community values and co-operation, and to the detriment of poor and disadvantaged communities
    • outsourcing and third party (private sector) involvement vis-à-vis the totality of service provision becomes integral to the bottom-line and to the success of this new, lean and mean business model
    • growing workplace inequality will be the order of the day
    • success will ultimately be measured in pounds, shillings and pence
    • and many of the bosses and entrepreneurs making millions off the backs of working people and British consumers will then cook the books to hide profits and pay the minimum tax possible.

    Managing change
    Change then is deemed to be the precondition for success unless, of course, you happen to work at a private school, or in Parliament, in the City, run great houses and country estates, or occupy positions of power, and are called a Right Honourable Gentleman, My Lord, My Lady or Your Majesty.
    For the rest of us (to quote from the ILP perspective) “…we are subordinated to the pursuit of profit” and in a way not seen or tolerated since before the second world war, the growth of strong trade unions and the creation of the welfare state.

    Inequality – an affront
    On the question of fairness at work and the case for a living wage, why is it left to Dr John Sentamu (Archbishop of York) to say (welcome though it is) that: “Until we pay a proper living wage for a proper day’s work, we will always have the problem of some people being unable to provide for their families”? He goes on to say: “Income inequality is an affront to our perception of ourselves as a healthy and modern society.”
    When over the past 20 years have we heard a leading Labour politician talk like that in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’? Don’t bother researching this, because the answer is never.

    It doesn’t have to be like this
    On the other hand, some Labour local authorities (such as the City of York council) have increased the pay of 500 minimum-waged employees to take them up to the current living wage of £7.45 an hour following recommendations made by the city’s Fairness Commission, which Dr Sentemu chairs. To their credit, they have done this under the most dire of economic circumstances and without the expected backlash from citizens and ratepayers.

    One Nation Labour
    The question we all want answered (ILPers and most Labour movement supporters, at least) is – where does growing workplace inequality, which grew exponentially under 13 years of New Labour rule, fit with Ed Milliband’s One Nation Labour philosophy? What practical policies are to be introduced by a future Labour government to ensure that the mistakes of past admininstrations are not repeated, and to significantly reduce inequality, unfairness and bullying in the workforce at all levels of society?

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