TEACHING jobs could go at South Tyneside’s latest academy, it was revealed today.
Just months after breaking away from the control of the local education authority, St Joseph’s Catholic Academy, in Mill Lane, Hebburn, is looking to shed both teachers and support staff to balance its books.
Teaching unions also warn there are plans to increase class sizes and contact time with pupils as part of school restructuring.
About 100 worried staff attended a meeting at the school this week, to discuss the implications of the educational shake-up.
But most parents have reportedly been ‘left in the dark’ about potential job losses at the new academy.
The former St Joseph’s RC Comprehensive School only officially became an academy last July, following protests by teaching unions and Coun John McCabe, who quit as a foundation governor in protest at the plans.
The Gazette has been told that about 16 jobs could go, both classroom teachers and support staff, including those working with special educational needs (SEN) pupils.
But teaching unions, who claim the school has to tackle a deficit, are planning to fight any compulsory redundancies.
Jill McManus, division secretary for the South Tyneside branch of the NUT, said: “They are talking about quite a large scale of reductions at the school.
“We have been involved with a couple of meetings with the headteacher and a human resources company.
“Possible redundancies are not due to falling rolls overall, but partly because of falling sixth form numbers.
“They are saying there will be a big deficit in their budget. But academies are businesses and it’s all about money.
“We met with teachers on Tuesday and the meeting was very well attended. I don’t think staff were expecting job losses on this scale.”
In February last year, union members lobbied governors meeting at the school to debate plans to convert the former comprehensive into an academy.
Coun McCabe resigned as a foundation governor at the school after 10 years, calling the plans “anti-Christian” and “elitist.”
But despite the protest by members of the Public Service Alliance, governors backed the move to academy status, which was later approved by the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
The high-achieving Hebburn school, which last summer enjoyed an overall pass rate of 70 per cent in GCSEs for A* to C grades, was earlier transformed through a £27m Government-led Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, backed by public money.
Graeme Burn, negotiating secretary of the South Tyneside branch of teachers’ union NAS/UWT, which has more than 60 members at the school, said: “We hope we can avoid any compulsory redundancies but there is a strong feeling among the staff of a degree of unfairness.
“Another impact could be plans for increased class sizes and increased contact time.
“But staff are already working their socks off and less staff and bigger classes will mean more pressure. We had a meeting with about 100 staff this week and one of the main issues raised was why the school became an academy.
“The school moved to self-governing status and now there appears to be a deficit in their budget.
“St Joseph’s has always been an outstanding school, supported by the local education authority. But now they are outside those jurisdictions, they appear to be struggling, and that affects staff morale.”
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “They have put forward very dramatic proposals, which which will involve the potential of up to 16 staff jobs being at risk.”
Mr Butler said that cleaning and catering services are not affected, but added:”There is a lot of concern from our membership.”
Terence Carney, chairman of governors at St Joseph’s Catholic Academy, said “a review of staffing levels” is under way at the school as part of a consultation process launched a fortnight ago, but he would not comment on how many jobs may go.
He said: “All educational institutions are, in the light of Government budgets, having to look very closely at their organisations over the next three to five years.”