Parents fundraise to mount legal challenge after school plans to axe 24 special needs staff

Parents of a school’s pupils are fundraising to mount a legal challenge to it axing 24 special needs staff and three teachers redundant.

They have nearly collected all of their £1,500 target to block the plan by The John Roan School in Maze Hill, Greenwich.

The National Education Union (NEU) fears Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) teaching will collapse in September if the decision is not reversed – but the school says its structure will be more efficient.

Only 12 staff will be left to meet the needs of SEND pupils, the school agrees – the 24 staff will be fired and ‘invited’ to be rehired on reduced terms and conditions.

A statement from NEU Greenwich secretary Tim Woodcock said: “This new idea for SEND is completely untested and there is little evidence that it will work for SEND pupils.

“But there is significant evidence that the SEND team in The John Roan is effective and for example was the only department praised in the most recent OFSTED report.”

Changes to a staff members’ contract should allow a 30-day consultation period, but this one will be rushed through in 17 working days – and the unions have been given very limited verbal financial details after requesting the information at the beginning of the consultation.

Mr Woodcock added: “Our worry is that SEND provision in John Roan School will collapse in September.

“The consultation is too late and there is too little time to adequately train the remaining staff and teachers before September 1.

“I have been the Secretary for many years and no other school has carried out a redundancy consultation after half term because there is not enough time. This is simply a sham consultation.”

He said parents will have chosen this school because of the quality of the SEND provision and the onsite Designated Special Provision (DSP).

“As yet there is no clear understanding about how the DSP will function or how SEND provision will be provided to the children with care plans,” he added.

“The proposals are unlawful because there has been no consultation with parents and the school only hurriedly sent a letter to parents [on June 18] because the unions complained that parents had not even been informed.”

Parents Natasha and Ashley who have a child with an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP), said: “We are against the cuts to the DSP provisions as staff go above and beyond the call of duty, and without them during lockdown our kids would have fallen behind academically.

“To directly cut staff with no guarantees…is morally wrong for all involved.”

Another parent, Jenny Hugget, said: “Our children are the future generation. They all deserve an education.

“Children with SEND need love, compassion, understanding and nurturing.

“The school’s amazing teachers and support staff have helped them be the best they can be in life.

“How can the school suggest our children’s needs can be met with 20 less staff, including counsellors and pastoral Key workers? It feels like finance is coming before their education and development? ”

The fundraiser says: “The wonderful and dedicated staff from Inclusion looked after our children during this pandemic and without their support, our children would have struggled. We can’t imagine how they must be feeling right now.

“If this plan goes ahead, it will have a devastating effect on our children’s education and development.

“Many of the children at the John Roan have Education Health Care plans (EHCPs) to ensure they have the support they need to thrive.

“Many more students have Special Education Needs and/or Disability (SEND) to support them in their learning and development.

“We simply cannot understand what could motivate this proposal and we want to stop the decimation of this provision, which the school, United Learning and the Royal Borough of Greenwich have a statutory obligation to provide.

“It will adversely affect our children’s educational opportunities at The John Roan School, both now and in the future.”

Cath Smith, executive headteacher, said: “We want all our students with additional needs to be prepared for successful adult lives and benefit from a learning experience that equips them to successfully join the adult workforce and reach personal objectives effectively.

“To achieve this, our intention is to create more specialised roles that bring greater and more specific support to meet the needs of all of our students with SEND, including the 16 who are in the DSP.

“We would provide regular expert training for our staff to ensure they have the necessary skills and expertise to offer bespoke interventions to our SEND students.

“All of our staff would receive training on the ways in which they can best support students with SEND in their roles in the school.

“In particular, the evidence is strong that high quality teaching in the mainstream classroom is the most effective way to ensure all students, especially those with SEND, are able to progress and thrive.

“Every individual EHCP will be entirely fulfilled in line with statutory requirements, however we would now do this with more tailored staffing and resources, both deployed utilising methodologies based upon up-to-date strategies that have been proven to have positive impact.

Through rigorous monitoring and expert provision mapping, each student that holds an EHCP would be assured of the best possible experience and outcomes.”

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