Monday 26 June 2017

Why Forest Hill School needs more staff

The NUT has produced a leaflet to explain why our members at Forest Hill School - boosted by members transferring from both other teaching unions - are taking three days of strike action this week:

38 posts cut by September - what kind of ‘new dawn’ will that be for Forest Hill students?
Teachers and parents opposed to the £1.3 million staffing cuts at Forest Hill School have tried everything we can to persuade Lewisham Council and school management to think again.
We’ve written letters, held meetings, marches and strikes but still they refuse to accept that these cuts will damage education. Instead, they claim they ‘herald a new dawn’ for the school !
Next term will still see the same numbers  of pupils, with the same range of needs, coming to Forest Hill. As always at FHS, staff will do their best to support every pupil but, as things stand, there will be 38 fewer staff to do so.
The restructuring means 23 support staff and 15 teaching posts will have gone. What kind of ‘new dawn’ is that?
It’s time for the Council and School to  admit that cutting these posts means  cutting education. They need to think again for the sake of Forest Hill students.

These cuts can be stopped
As we explain in this leaflet, at least some of these staff cuts can be easily reversed. All it needs is for those in charge to stop digging their heels in and start to do what’s best for education.
So join us in demanding they:
●    Admit these cuts damage education
●    Admit they have cut too many staff
●    Use the options available to them to at least reverse the worst of the cuts so that Forest Hill students have the            education they need in September.

The NUT is striking to demand that at least some of the staffing cuts are withdrawn at Forest Hill
Our demands are very simple. We want assurances that the school will put in place a plan to recruit:
1. More staff to reverse the most serious cuts, especially to SEN and pastoral provision. Cuts to learning mentors and teaching assistants are already leading to cuts in   support to some of the students who most need that help.
2. More teachers to allow a reduction in teacher contact time. The new timetable will halve the amount of time teachers have in the school day to plan, prepare and  mark books, contact parents and speak to students.

The Council and School have got their figures wrong. Too many staff have been cut.
Lewisham Council’s mistakes have already had a bad outcome for one local school, Sedgehill School. Now their mistakes could also damage education at Forest Hill too.

Councillors keep giving the excuse that Forest Hill was spending too much of its budget on staff and that’s why cuts had to be made. When we questioned this, we received a written   reply saying that FHS spent 81% on staffing. But the School’s own consultation document shows this is untrue. It shows staff costs at £7,540 K from a £10,126 K total expenditure - or 74.5%. This is actually less than the 76% the National Audit Office say schools typically spend.

The School has swung the axe at jobs ahead of other savings. Worse, spending on some non-staffing headings has gone up! Budget forecasts have shown the allocation for ‘professional services’ going up by £300k alone since Xmas. We’ve asked why - but we’ve had no answer.

Why is the issue of workload and timetable loading so important to NUT members ?
Everyone involved in education knows that long working hours are the main reason why schools struggle to recruit and retain teachers. Forest Hill has shown what happens when you threaten to make workload even worse - teachers leave. At least 23 teachers have resigned for the end of term. Add all those leaving, e.g. through redundancy, and nearly ⅓ of teachers will be going.

The Head is telling parents that he has met workload concerns by having an early closure on a Monday (although it now seems some will be teaching classes after school on other days!) - but those 25 minutes won’t make up for losing 3 hours of non-contact time during the school week.

Think about a teacher with a class of 30 boys. Giving each book just two minutes of marking uses up a full hour. But teachers have lots of classes. They will have to do even more work after school. That’s not just a problem for teachers. As the Department for Education has warned Heads: "Teachers forced to mark work late at night and at weekends are unlikely to operate effectively in the classroom". Workload is an issue for parents, students & teachers. That’s why we are asking for extra staff to provide at least some additional timetable release for teachers. 

We aren’t asking for the ‘impossible’. Here are some ways to find additional funding:
1. The school budget forecasts include a £100,000 figure for emergency ‘contingency’. Use it!
2. Redirect money from rising non-staffing budgets towards reversing some of the staffing cuts.
3. The School has had to find an additional £0.5 million from its own budget to pay the costs of redundancies. The Council could be (we think by law should be) meeting these costs.
4. There is increasing pressure on the Government to find additional funding for schools. The Council could postpone some of the cuts while the national school cuts campaign continues.
5. As Greenwich Council has shown, there are clear mechanisms open to the Council to reduce funding pressures, particularly by agreeing to extend the time that it has set for the licensed deficit to be repaid from the school budget and/or by directing specific funding towards FHS.

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