Special educational needs staff strike over job cuts

SEN staff striking today Pic: Rachael Pells

SEN staff striking today Pic: Rachael Pells

Special educational needs teachers in Hackney are striking today, in protest against “unnecessary” job cuts.

Yesterday, the teachers from Hackney Inclusion Team, who help children with special educational needs in schools across the borough, gathered outside the Hackney Learning Trust headquarters with placards and protest chants.

 Representatives from the Hackney National Union of Teachers, Hackney Unison, and parents joined the teachers.

The teachers will strike today and two days next week, unless the Learning Trust responds to their demands.

The Learning Trust proposes to turn the support of the Inclusion Team into a traded service and intends to cut their budget by £300,000. NUT Hackney say this will leave them “over-stretched and less able to work with families and schools with special needs children in desperate need of support.”

At the rally, Quita Smith, a teacher for deaf-partial hearing children said: “We’re worried we won’t be able to offer such a good service as we have up to date.”

The Learning Trust also plans to cut the teachers’ terms and conditions of work, and cut six staff members from the team in 2014.

A specialist teacher and NUT representative for the Inclusion team, Dianne Sandler, said:

“We’re almost the last Inclusion Team standing, and lots of parents are crying out for support for their children. Hackney Learning Trust say it’s not a cost-cutting exercise but it feels like it to us.”

Sandler added that the cuts would not allow the team to “protect the children who are most vulnerable in Hackney… Often that means they won’t stay in school, or the schools really struggle because they haven’t got the support and expertise of our team.”

They are aggrieved at budget cuts Pic: Rachael Pells

They are aggrieved at budget cuts Pic: Rachael Pells

Dave Davies, branch secretary of Hackney NUT, said the teachers will experience an average pay cut of £5000 by 2016: “What is now a stable Inclusion Team will be decimated in three years time.” Davies added: “The team is important to Hackney Learning Trust – it should be expanded, not cut.”

A parent whose child is taught by teachers from the Inclusion Team, said the team makes a difference in the childrens’ lives: “[The] children need to be guided and supported so they can become a part of society and so they can work and therefore give back to society.”

Susie Burrows, President of Hackney Teachers Association, said: “The authority are trying to cut the Inclusion provision and they don’t need to, they’re not even saving money, they’re just trying to reorganise in a way that won’t work in the best needs of the schools and the children.”

A spokesperson for Hackney Learning Trust responded: “We will continue to consult with unions and hope to resolve this matter.”

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