Staff at troubled Harlow academy commence vote on industrial action

Staff at scandal-struck Aspire Academy in Harlow are voting on industrial action over concerns for their health and safety, UNISON announces today.

The school for students outside mainstream education, part of the TBAP multi-academy trust, was the subject of a BBC Panorama investigation in March after the head teacher blew the whistle on serious financial trouble.

Earlier this month, students in years 7, 8 and 9 were sent home because of unsafe staffing levels.  It’s not the first time parts of the school have been closed because short-staffing has sparked safeguarding concerns.

UNISON, which represents support staff at Aspire, says it has been raising concerns about the finances and staffing levels since early 2018, shortly after TBAP took over the school.

Many staff, including the head, are off sick because of the problems at the school. Support staff have already supported industrial action in a recent consultative ballot.

UNISON Eastern regional manager Tim Roberts said: “Staff at Aspire are going over and above the call of duty trying to keep their school running so that children who haven’t been able to manage in mainstream education can still get the education they need.

“But they’re being stretched to breaking point by the trust’s mismanagement and many staff just can’t cope with coming into work anymore.

“It’s hard to see how the school can continue to operate in this environment. TBAP must act quickly to get a grip on the increasingly unsafe situation it’s created at Aspire or deal with the consequences.”

Aspire Academy was set up as an alternative provision free school, for students struggling with or excluded from mainstream education, in September 2014 and joined TBAP Trust on 1 December 2017.

In 2018 TBAP was issued with a financial notice to improve by the Education and Schools Funding Agency, and in September proposed, subject to consultation, cuts across the trust to achieve savings of £2.5 million in a full year and over £1.6 million in 2018-2019.

The ballot opened last week and will close in June.