Special education teachers in one-day strike over proposed cuts

Teachers marched in Mile End

Campaigners against proposed special educational needs cuts in Tower Hamlets striking today - Credit: @Save_theSLS

Special education teachers launched 24 hours of strike action today, Wednesday, December 9, over proposed cuts to services after crisis talks broke down.

National Education Union members in Tower Hamlets are opposing around £650,000 of planned cuts to the borough’s Support for Learning Service (SLS), which the council is currently consulting on.

The service provides advice and training to teachers across the borough, as well as support to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The town hall’s proposals included an expected reduction in teachers for deaf children. If they go ahead there will be just three members of staff for 519 deaf children in the borough, campaigners say.

Protesters held a socially distanced demonstration along Mile End Road this morning after talks held through mediator ACAS were unsuccessful.

NEU district secretary Alex Kenny said: “The cuts currently threatened by the council are a real body blow to dedicated staff, who worked through the Covid pandemic at a time when families often couldn’t access therapies and NHS services they rely on.

“The current SLS has played a vital role in improving educational and job opportunities for local children and young people with SEND. Cutting jobs and deskilling those that remain will hit the life chances of the current generation.”

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A council spokesman said the town hall increased special education needs spending to £65m, from £50m in 2019.

He added: “Like all councils, we are seeing a rise in demand for different services to meet the needs of children whilst contending with a shrinking budget.

"As a result, we have to change the way some services are delivered to make the most of the money we have for all children and young people with SEND, whilst offering the best service we can.

“We are disappointed that the NEU has balloted for strike action before our consultation has concluded.

"We have also brought in ACAS to try to resolve the situation without success, but we remain committed to finding a solution. We will be looking carefully at the results of the consultation before making a final decision on this proposal.”

An online petition has more than 1,200 signatures.