‘Callous’ Warrington Primary Academy Trust criticised as it presses ahead with plans to make staff redundant during Coronavirus crisis

Warrington Primary Academy Trust (WPAT), which runs six schools in Warrington and Halton, has come under fire as it has ploughed on with a controversial staffing restructure process in the midst of the ongoing national health crisis.

The controversial restructure process, which affects staff working at Beaumont and Alderman Bolton primary schools (Warrington) and Ditton primary school (Halton) could lead to school staff facing cuts to their pay and conditions, or even lose their jobs.

Many school staff are currently supporting the effort to stop the spread of the virus by attending work in order to ensure that key workers’ children are cared for. The consultation, which ran throughout March, has placed undue stress on staff during the current health crisis, says UNISON. As well as the anxiety created by potential job losses and cuts to working conditions, the union says that is unfair to expect staff to express their interest in a post and go through competitive interviews against their colleagues in the current climate.

Local UNISON branches have raised their concerns with WPAT CEO Louise Smith, who has refused to pause any of the restructure processes ongoing at the three schools. Subsequently, the issue has been raised with WPAT by Warrington Borough Council Chief Executive Steven Broomhead and the council’s Director of Education and Early Help Paula Worthington.

Meanwhile, three other education unions issued joint advice last week stating that it was “not possible to proceed on matters such as reorganisation/redundancy … which require meaningful consultation in order to meet the law’s requirements”. This advice had been sent by Warrington Borough Council to all schools in Warrington, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

UNISON Schools Committee Chair Pam Howard said: “It’s completely abhorrent that Trust bosses have chosen to steamroll their restructure through in the midst of a global pandemic that is fundamentally affecting us all.

“School support staff are going over and above to ensure that children of key workers are looked after in the midst of this crisis- many of our members have volunteered to work over the Easter holidays to support the national effort, and yet they have been rewarded by the threat of losing their jobs.

“It is eminently possible that the current emergency could endure for many months to come. If and when schools are able to fully re-open, school support staff will be essential in the effort to reverse the educational deficit. UNISON calls on WPAT CEO Louise Smith to reconsider the Trust’s callous decision and pause all staff restructures for the foreseeable future. We will be happy to work with the Trust on any current or future reviews once this crisis has been navigated.”

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