Borough’s special needs teaching jobs at risk

Meadowgate is one of the schools to be closed this summer pic: Meadowgate School

Lewisham teachers have been warned that their jobs could be at risk with the closure of two special needs schools in the borough.

Meadowgate and Pendragon School will close in July and be replaced by Drumbeat School, a new centre for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

Staff have been told they will need to apply for jobs at the new school where positions will also be advertised externally.

Head teacher of Pendragon School, Timothy Stokes said: “None of our staff know whether they will secure posts in the new school and there is understandably a great deal of uncertainty, not to say anxiety, about the future.

“One particular concern is that Lewisham Council are insisting all teaching posts for the new school will be advertised nationally. This is considered by many to be entirely unfair and possibly prejudicial.”

One councillor told a Lewisham council meeting last month: “Some staff will be displaced due to the need to ensure the right skills mix at Drumbeat” and consequently Meadowgate and Pendragon Schools will be offering voluntary redundancies.

Cllr Paul Bell, Labour, told EastLondonLines he believed the situation had not been handled well: “Assurances were given to the staff that they would transfer to the new school. I feel that hard working and caring staff have been let down by the council on this matter.”

Drumbeat’s head teacher, Dr Viv Hitchcliffe, is currently in consultation with the temporary governing body on the new staff structure for the school.

Unions including the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers expressed their concerns to Lewisham Council, saying that the borough’s teachers had been assured their jobs would be secure.

These groups now call for the consultation period to be extended before anything is implemented, though the coalition of teaching unions are currently in discussions with the council.

Michael Powell-Davies, member of the Lewisham NUT said: “Students will be disturbed to find that the staff that they have built up a relationship with, may no longer be supporting and teaching them in September.”

Both schools are due to close in July, with plans for Drumbeat to open for the new school term in September this year. However building work on the school, which is on the old site of the Pendragon school in Downham, won’t be completed until April next year.

Until it is completed, Drumbeat will run from the existing Pendragon and Meadowgate sites.

Lewisham Council have said that they cannot comment on whether staff were given assurances until they have responded to the local union on the matter.

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