School’s plan to axe staff and replace them with apprentices sparks anger

Manorfield Primary School in Poplar, where staff who work during lunchtimes and breakfast clubs are

Manorfield Primary School in Poplar, where staff who work during lunchtimes and breakfast clubs are facing redundancy. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

Trade union GMB has criticised proposals to replace 11 staff with apprentices at a school in Poplar.

Manorfield Primary School in Wyvis Street has proposed cutting staff who cover lunchtimes and the breakfast club, to replace them with a team of apprentices.

The school argues the current structure, where staff are only in school for two or three hours a day, doesn’t allow them to make a significant contribution to learning, but the union claims proposals are just money saving measures.

Anna Lee, regional organiser of the GMB, said: “The school are trying to hide behind the premise that the current arrangement is not fit for purpose and offers no career development for the staff currently employed.

“Many of the staff have worked at the school for years and are committed to providing invaluable support to children. This proposal is about one thing and one thing only, and that is saving money.”

The proposal claims that there’s little scope for staff to progress in the current structure. The new team would be employed under an apprenticeship scheme, where they’d be trained to be Level 3 Apprentices (an advanced apprenticeship equivalent to two A-Levels), and would be given the chance to become teaching assistants, or begin teacher training, at the end of their course.

The school proposes two groups of apprentices who would work from 7am until after lunch and from late morning until after school. They’d run the breakfast club, after school clubs, and both groups would be available at lunchtimes to allow for more midday activities.

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But the GMB claim replacing experienced staff with apprentices is an attempt to source “cheap labour”.

Ms Lee said: “This proposal is extremely worrying if schools think they can just replace experienced and valuable staff with a cheaper alternative. We know schools are facing the most crippling cuts seen in decades but this is not the answer.”

Headteacher Paul Jackson said: “The proposed new role is not a like for like match with our current midday assistant role. It would not be appropriate to comment on the outcome of this consultation while discussions are ongoing. The relevant trade unions are involved in these discussions and their feedback, along with that of the staff, will inform any final outcome.

“As always, we strive to offer the very best provision to the children of Manorfield. We will ensure that if the consultation results in any proposals for change, that these changes improve the overall provision at Manorfield.”

If the proposals are approved, the existing midday and breakfast club team would be offered redundancy from December 31, and the apprentices would begin in January.