Job cuts at Norfolk primary schools could spark strikes

Job cuts threatened at eight Norfolk primary schools could force teaching assistants to strike, UNISON warns today.​

Wensum Trust, which runs the schools, wants to scrap all 75 teaching assistant posts, with staff expected to compete for 48 pastoral support roles, focussed on supporting children’s emotions rather than helping them to learn, says the union.

Jobs are threatened at Arden Grove, Burnham Market, Firside, Garrick Green, Heather Avenue, Kinsale, Lodge Lane and Wells-next-the-Sea primary schools.

The academy chain blames financial pressures for the change and admitted in its consultation document: “This reduction will of course have an impact on provision and there will be less support for class teachers to provide bespoke interventions to meet the needs of all children.”

But UNISON says closer scrutiny of Wensum’s finances show seven of the eight primary schools are in surplus, with most of the trust’s financial woes coming down to a £474,000 deficit in central services, where the number of senior managers on six-figure salaries increased from one in 2022 to four in 2023.

Teaching assistants have now said they’re willing to strike unless the trust rethinks. In a consultative vote, 96% backed industrial action.

They are urging the board, which includes outgoing North Norfolk MP Chloe Smith, to step in and scrap the proposals.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Cameron Matthews said: “Bosses seem more interested in protecting their own pay packets than the pupils in their charge.

“Wensum has admitted the cuts will harm children’s education but are ploughing on regardless. They should be making choices that prioritise children’s education rather than damaging delivery and putting more strain on teachers.

“Teaching assistants would much rather be helping children learn than considering industrial action but they know that the harm to pupils would be far greater if these proposals go through.

“We urge the trust to abandon these plans.”