LARGE cuts are looming at the TBAP multi-academy trust, which runs schools in London, Essex, Cambridgeshire and the North West, following accusations of financial mismanagement, said education unions yesterday.
The TBAP trust, which teaches children excluded from mainstream education, plans to cut over £2.5m (14.4%) from its budget, say the unions. Unison, which represents school support staff in the chain, recently wrote to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) raising serious concerns about financial management at the trust.
The ESFA warned the trust in January, and has now put TBAP under financial notice to improve management, control and governance in all its schools. The unions find it particularly worrying that the Department for Education continued to allow the trust to take on new schools when it knew the trust was in financial difficulties.
Unions say the rush to make such severe cuts will damage pupils and put teaching and support staff jobs at risk. There is also concern that employees who are not made redundant could see their salaries cut. If jobs go, unions fear vulnerable pupils will need to be taught in larger groups. This could not only disrupt their learning, but also risk their safety and that of staff. The trust is also suggesting that online learning could be an alternative to the classroom so it can cut back on staff, say unions.
Unison head of education Jon Richards said: ‘This looks like yet another fiasco over how academies are run, and it raises more questions about what the ESFA does when it knows there is a problem. The ESFA must ensure that pupils are protected and staff don’t see their jobs cut because of financial mistakes made by the trust.’
GMB national officer Karen Leonard said: ‘Severe cuts would mean vulnerable children losing desperately needed support, violent incidents could increase, and staff will no doubt be fearful that they will lose their jobs. ‘Sadly we are at risk of further episodes like this until the government clamps down on multi-academy trust finances to protect the money that is meant for children’s education.’
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: ‘The situation is completely unacceptable and the proposed cuts will directly harm the quality of education being provided to some of the most vulnerable children. ‘The NASUWT opposes any cuts to teaching and support staff, and will be working to find a solution that protects jobs and quality education provision.’
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: ‘These vulnerable students deserve much better. The Department for Education must act quickly to put effective controls on multi-academy trusts and prevent mismanagement like this.’
• Responding to news that West Nottinghamshire College has received a financial health notice to improve from the government after requesting £2.1 million financial support, Unison national officer Leigh Powell said: ‘It’s a disgrace that financial troubles have escalated to this level. Last year Unison tried to warn the FE Commissioner and governors about financial mismanagement at the college.
‘Senior managers at the college have played fast and loose with public money to the detriment of students’ education, and the future of the dedicated staff who work there.
‘Both the college and the FE Commissioner have passed the buck even when 100 members of staff were being made redundant.
‘Staff are now left wondering who will be leading the financial recovery plan and how future changes will affect them. ‘An urgent meeting with Unison, the College and FE Commissioner representatives is needed so that staff and students’ questions get clear answers.’