A Merseyside primary school has been slated for pushing ahead with plans which could see 24 staff lose their jobs, accoring to a major trade union.
Townfield Primary School, in Birkenhead, Wirral, is currently talking to staff and Wirral's branch of Unison about its "restructuring" plans.
The school said no decisions have been made yet but Wirral Unison said every other school in the borough had paused talks like these and the decision to carry on with them was “heartless” in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
Wirral Unison branch secretary David Jones, said: “It’s outrageous that Townfield have chosen to plough on with this restructure at this time.
“School support staff are doing all they can to ensure key workers’ children are looked after during this crisis and yet they’re rewarded by the possibility of losing their jobs.
“Every other school in Wirral has paused consultations such as this one during the current crisis. Why does Townfield feel the need to create this unnecessary stress for its dedicated school staff by pressing on with this process?”
Wirral Unison said pay cuts, worse conditions and redundancies for up to 24 staff were all on the table as part of the plans.
The union added that Townfield Primary School has ongoing financial problems and an investigation of the school’s finances by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) was due to report imminently but its findings have been delayed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Wirral Unison also said the school has not yet published its accounts for the last financial year.
Mr Jones said: “Wirral Unison believes that it is completely inappropriate to continue this consultation process whilst we are still waiting to see the results of ESFA’s investigation into the school’s finances, and indeed the schools own accounts from the last year.
“We believe that all of our focus should be on combating coronavirus, not making school support staff redundant.
“We will be consulting with our members on further action, but we urge the school, at this time of national crisis, to please think again.”
Moira Loftus, Townfield Primary School headteacher, disputed Mr Jones’s account of the school’s plans.
Ms Loftus said: “As the new Head Teacher of Townfield Primary School it is my responsibility and that of the Trustees to stabilise the school following some turbulent years.
“My aim is to ensure that educational standards and school finances are in order so that we can secure the future of Townfield Primary School. It was with this in mind that the proposals were drawn up and sent to the Unions at the beginning of March.
“The school has been engaged in collective consultation with all of the relevant teaching and non-teaching unions for a number of weeks, with an aim to reduce or mitigate any dismissals.”
She added that the process is continuing and none of the decisions Wirral Unison spoke about have happened yet.
Ms Loftus said the union's actions would only cause "further upset" to staff.
She said: “We are therefore surprised and disappointed that Unison has decided to contact the papers and discuss the process including information which has been provided to them in confidence as part of the process.
“Unfortunately by operating in this way and providing only part of the picture, the only result will be additional upset to my staff who have been kept informed and continue to support me as we work on redeployment of support staff across the whole school.
“Further, as a result of the current situation we have also agreed to extend the collective consultation period with the unions before we even embark on individual consultations.
“Whilst I appreciate that this is a difficult time, I do not have the luxury of putting matters on hold until the school reopens given the uncertainty as to when this will be.”