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Teachers at Harrogate's The Grove Academy go on strike

PRU cuts petition The Grove

Published by May Norman at 6:51am 13th June 2019. (Updated at 12:08pm 13th June 2019)

Teachers at The Grove 'desperate' for a u-turn over funding cuts

  • Teachers at Harrogate's The Grove Academy are going on strike today (Thursday, 13 June).
  • They're walking out in anger at budget cuts of over 65 per cent which, they claim, could result in the closure of the school.
  • The pupil referral unit supports children who're excluded from mainstream school.
  • The teachers striking are calling on North Yorkshire County Council to offer a concession on the budget cuts.
  • They want more time to lobby the Government in seeking additional help.
  • Teachers at The Grove have described the cuts as 'devastating'.
  • The funding cuts were approved in February.

'We're in a desperate situation' claim teachers at Harrogate's The Grove Academy who're on strike today (Thursday, 13 June).

They're walking out in anger over budget cuts - which they say could result in the closure of the school.

Funding for the pupil referral unit - which supports children who're excluded from mainstream school - has been axed by 65 per cent.

English teacher Alex Boyce said:

"The cuts are so quick and so deep that the 3 times Outstanding Grove PRU will close at Christmas unless the financial situation changes. With hardly any alternatives in place, schools will be left with nowhere to go with the most needy, most challenging students in the Harrogate area. If the Grove were funded to next summer, it would give management a fighting chance of working out a sustainable, new arrangement with our local schools." 

Staff at The Grove were balloted over strike action last month (May).

It follows a meeting in Feburary in which North Yorkshire County Council councillors  voted to approve plans to cut one of the council's educational budgets, its High Needs Budget.

It meant a £2.7m reduction in funding to the county's Pupil Referral Service. 

The Grove Academy in Harrogate will be affected and is due to lose two thirds of its budget by 2020. 

The decision on budget cuts comes despite campaigns by teachers and former students.

Among those involved in the strike is instructor David Hamilton, who has worked with children in the Harrogate district for more than 35 years, being awarded an MBE in 2008 for his services to the community.

He said

"I have never supported strike action before in my career but this situation is so serious I think I have no other choice."

North Yorkshire County Council is moving to a 'more inclusive mainstream school culture', designed to reduce the numbers of children and young people excluded from school.

However, teachers at The Grove believe alternative provision settings are stretched to capacity - and won't be able to cope with the vulnerable students.

Mark Harrison, Regional Officer for UNISON stated:

“As the Tory Central Government are preaching that austerity is over then they need to back their words with money to save this vital local service.”

Tim Toepritz, National Executive for the NASUWT in the area stated:

“These cuts will harm the most vulnerable young people in the area. This provision helps potential ‘lost souls’ back into society. They will become marginalised and that will have a serious impact upon the local community. Caring staff, needed by North Yorkshire, will also face the prospect of unemployment.

North Yorkshire Council Council said it would “continue to meet the needs of permanently excluded children and young people in all parts of the county”.

Jane le Sage, Assistant Director of Inclusion for Children and Young People’s Services said:

“We recognise the negative impact of exclusion on educational attainment, life chances and increased vulnerability of young people.

“We remain committed to reducing the numbers of permanent exclusions across the county by ensuring schools have access to high quality, alternative provision for young people, who will benefit from a more personalised curriculum and higher levels of support.

“Over the past several months we have been working successfully with secondary and Pupil Referral Unit Headteachers to finalise new models of alternative provision from September 2020. We do not anticipate the closure of any of the four other maintained Pupil Referral Services in North Yorkshire and, indeed, they remain at the centre of our vision to reduce exclusions but with a focus on early intervention to support children and young people.

“The new alternative provision models are based on funding of £18,000 a year from the local authority per place - in line with national average - together with a small contribution from schools.

“This will be sufficient to provide a strong curriculum, together with work-related opportunities, vocational provision and an enhanced therapeutic offer, hopefully supported by the significant financial reserves in a number of Pupil Referral Units.

“Any decision regarding the future of the Grove lies with Delta Multi Academy Trust and the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) with the final decision taken by Ministers.

“We have not been notified formally of closure intentions from December 2019 and are in active discussion with the Chief Officer from Delta and the RSC to explore a range of options to secure the future of an alternative provision model serving the Harrogate area. 

“We are disappointed we have not made progress in developing the new Alternative Education model in Harrogate under the new funding arrangements and would strongly urge the school and Pupil Referral Service leaders to work with us to finalise arrangements for future provision.

“We understand that our decision to reduce the funding allocation to Pupil Referral Services has not been popular, but historically these providers have been very generously funded with place costs being higher than other specialist schools in the county.

“However, pressures on the high needs block funding for children and young people with SEND means that we are unable to continue to fund over and above the national average and remain confident that the new alternative provision models will provide cost efficiency and continue to provide high quality provision and support for young people.”

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