Joint Union Press Release on SCC Expenditure Cuts, January 2005
From: Martin Goold, Division Secretary
NUT welcomes about-turn
Suffolk NUT welcomed todays government announcement that schools could permanently exclude pupils who bully or who use violent behaviour against adults or children.
"This is a long over-due change of heart from the Government", said Martin Goold, NUT Secretary for Suffolk. "Up to now, schools have been expected to contain violent pupils. The regulations have protected the rights of the offender more than the rights of the rest of the school community and schools have had to take back pupils when parents appeal."
However, Martin Goold is warning that Suffolk is now ill-equipped to find places for excluded pupils in referral units. "When Suffolk closed Oakwood school we lost 58 places for children with behavioural difficulties, which have still not been replaced. They ignored our protest that our schools could not cope."
The NUT welcomes Suffolk LEAs plans for new referral units but points out that they are way behind schedule and only one Unit (15 places) has been set up since Oakwood closed. The NUT claims that the much heralded plans for new referral units are simply not materialising.
"Even if the new Units are eventually set up some time in the future", said Mr Goold, "Suffolk pays referral unit staff less than is paid in surrounding Authorities, where their specialist status is valued more highly. We have great difficulty recruiting to these very demanding and specialist posts."
The teachers unions have now put in a pay claim for teachers in Suffolks referral units, seeking parity with staff elsewhere.
Contact: Martin Goold, 01284 763980 (Phone and FAX); Mobile: 07850 221051; firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Martin Goold, Division Secretary
Suffolk Division of the National Union of Teachers
The November meeting of the Suffolk Division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) is calling for Suffolk to pay its EBD (Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) teachers the special payments such teachers get in other areas of the country.
The NUT was welcoming the County Council's decision to expand the number of Pupil Referral Units for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, including units for Middle School-age pupils, for the first time. However, the NUT is worried that the County will not attract suitably qualified and experienced staff to these Units in Suffolk, because Suffolk pays its PRU teachers less than our neighbouring Authorities. "Good teachers with a proven record in helping these children effectively will not be prepared to come to Suffolk to be paid much the same as a classroom teacher in a mainstream school, with no recognition of their special skills", said Division Secretary, Martin Goold. "The Referral Units in Suffolk are already suffering from acute staffing difficulties and this can only get worse as competition for such places grows. Mainstream schools are also looking for teachers with expertise in dealing with the most disruptive pupils to try to keep them in ordinary schools for as long as possible. Suffolk must pay the going rate for such teachers who are in very short supply, or else the county's strategy for inclusion will fail."
The Union is concerned that failure to cope properly with disruptive pupils in mainstream classes will lead to further stress on hard-pressed classroom teachers and complaints from the parents of other pupils whose education can suffer from disruption.
Despite constant pressure from the NUT, Suffolk LEA refuse to pay EBD staff what is known as a "Special Allowance": this is paid to teachers in all Special Schools or Special Units, except those working in PRUs. Ian Tatchell, former headteacher and Teacher Representative for Special Education on the old Education Committee, said "It is ridiculous that Suffolk will not recognise the special skills and expertise required in teachers of EBD by paying the Special Needs Allowance. These teachers will get that recognition elsewhere, so it is no wonder they do not want to come to Suffolk."
Full text of motion passed at the Suffolk NUT Divisional Council meeting at Northgate High School on Thursday evening (30/11/00):
|This Division Council regrets the premature closure of Oakwood School and notes that the County is currently seriously underprovided with places for pupils with the greatest Emotional or Behavioural Difficulties (EBD). We also note that some of Oakwood's erstwhile pupils are still without full-time provision matching their statemented needs, a year on.|
|The Division welcomes, however:
The Union believes, however, that all specialist teachers of EBD employed in PRUs, the "Centre of Excellence" or Units attached to mainstream schools, should be recognised as teachers of Special Educational Needs and paid at least the first SEN point. We believe that if the County is to attract sufficiently experienced and qualified staff to deal effectively with the most behaviourally difficult and emotionally delicate pupils, then Suffolk must pay at least the same as other Authorities, and recruit from amongst those who have a proven record of success with such pupils. That effectiveness should be recognised and there should be no disctinction between such work undertaken in a Special School, Hostel, Unit or mainstream situation."
Contacts: Division Secretary: Martin Goold 01284 763980
Assistant Secretary: Penny Cook, Hadleigh High School, 01473 823496
President: Peter Dunnett, 01842 726440
From: Martin Goold, Division Secretary
Text: Suffolk NUT urges Council to keep Oakwood open Suffolk NUT has written to all Suffolk MPs and all Suffolk County Councillors urging them to join the teachers in calling for the withdrawal of the closure threat for Oakwood School, Stowmarket.
Suffolk NUT Secretary, Martin Goold, said today: "The Council must withdraw its closure threat straight away. Any delay or postponement will bring untold misery to the children, parents and the Education System, which will not be able to cope without the facilities at Oakwood. We call upon the Council to admit they have made a mistake, to withdraw the proposal, and go back to the drawing board."
A copy of the letter sent to County Councillors follows, plus a copy of the summary of arguments against closure. A similar letter was sent to MPs last week.
Note: The Executive Committee of Suffolk County Council is due to decide on October 4th whether to pursue closure or not. They may decide to delay a decision. The NUT is certain that a delay would only make matters worse.
To all County Councillors, Suffolk County Council
September 27th 1999
Oakwood Special School, Stowmarket
The October 4th Executive Committee meeting will be considering the proposal to close Oakwood School as a residential school for boys with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties up to and including years 10 and 11 (Key-Stage 4) and to open on the same premises a non-residential, mixed school for pupils up to Year 9 only (KS3).
The NUT believes that this proposal will be extremely damaging to the children who are currently statemented as being in need of residential care, particularly the older children preparing for GCSE examinations and re-integration into further education or training. The proposal will remove from future generations a facility for referring some of our most difficult children for specialist help.
Oakwood is the only school in the County which operates a 24-hour curriculum, where this is needed. As it is, the County spends an additional £935,000 a year in similar provision out-County, because it already has insufficient EBD provision. Removing this current provision from Oakwood would leave the County without proper provision for EBD.
The closure plan is predicated on the supposition that, in just 10 months' time, alternative arrangements (building, training, equipment, staffing and course provision) will be available "more locally" for all the current pupils and for all those who would otherwise be offered placements at Oakwood, many of whom will actually have to be re-integrated into mainstream schools. In fact, it is clear that no adequate alternative provision will be in place by August 2000 and, indeed, at the time of writing there is no clear picture or plan as to just what that alternative provision would be. It is also clear that mainstream schools are not ready or able to receive these pupils back into a "normal" schooling situation.
In the meantime, Oakwood school is in grave danger of becoming untenable: the school has entered another period of caretaker management under a temporary Acting Head, borrowed from a Pupil Referral Unit, (which is not even considered to be in the Special Sector). Attempts to interest consultant Headteachers in a rescue plan for the school have failed, because, we believe, of the threat of closure. Similarly, current vacancies at the school are proving impossible to fill with suitably qualified personnel or at all: no one wants a job in a doomed establishment.
Most seriously, the school's post-OFSTED action plan to bring it out of "Serious Weaknesses" has been overtaken by a sense of running down the school towards closure, when it should have been able to concentrate on improving what it does and how it does it.
The NUT in Suffolk believes that it is crucial, for the future of the school, the pupils and the mainstream schools it serves, that the closure plan is withdrawn forthwith. This could be done by the Executive Committee at their meeting next week. We urge the Committee to do just that.
To continue to plan closure will be disastrous for the school, its pupils and its staff. Morale, already seriously low, will become impossible to maintain. To destroy what we have now before being sure that there are alternatives which can be put in place in time, and that they will be at least as good, would be pure folly.
The Review of EBD provision, which is needed before making any adjustments to such provision, is currently being rushed through, in an attempt to provide some retrospective evidence base to the Oakwood proposal. Councillors should know that practitioners on the ground have not been consulted and, so far, any review has been superficial and theoretical.
The Union did present its detailed arguments to the LEA in writing, in response to the consultation paper. I attach a copy of the summary of our response issued for the public meeting in July. A copy of the NUT's full response is available on request from the above address, or via the INTERNET on: www.suffolknut.org.uk .
We would ask you to support the withdrawal of the current proposal for Oakwood and commission a full, professional review of EBD provision throughout the county, before planning the changes we will need for the 21st century.
The NUT believes that the proposal to remove all KS4 provision and all residential provision from Oakwood School's provision should be opposed. The principle reasons for our opposition to the proposal are, in summary:
Much more thought and information is required before an "inclusive" policy can be properly planned and executed.
The NUT is not against change, and wishes to see Oakwood develop to meet the needs of the 21st century, to play its part in assisting with the integration of pupils with SEN for a more inclusive education system and, in the short term, address the weaknesses identified by OFSTED. It is our contention that retaining KS4 and residential EBD provision at Oakwood will actually make it much easier for the LEA to achieve its avowed objectives of:
Closure, on the other hand, will have only a negative effect on the service and will remove facilities before future demand has been assessed county-wide. The NUT believes that the closure plan is ill-conceived, poorly handled and hastily presented to elected members, staff and parents. It is already clear that, since the announcement of the proposal, much damage to the school has already been done, adversely affecting prospects of both pupils and staff. The effect of announcing closure before the publication of the post-OFSTED action plan has been to: