Schools in Consett, and all over County Durham, are due to close on November 8th and 9th due to strike action by teaching assistants. Over forty schools across the county will be affected.
The industrial action, by members of Unison and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), will not, however, affect all schools in the same way. While most will be closed for the whole of the two days, some will only have certain classes affected. For a list of exactly which schools are affected and how, please click here.
In and around Consett, some of the schools affected include Beamish Primary School, Bishop Ian Ramsey C of E Primary School, Consett Junior School, Delves Lane Primary School, East Stanley School, Leadgate Primary School, South Stanley Infant School and South Stanley Junior School.
— Ben Sellers (@MrBenSellers) October 31, 2016
The dispute was sparked by changes Durham County Council announced to the TAs contracts. The council wished to pay the TAs solely for hours worked during term time and not for school holidays. The TAs claim this could result in them losing up to 23% of their salaries or £5000 annually. The council argue the figure would be more like 10%.
One union representing the TAs, the GMB, has accepted a council offer to delay the introduction of the changes by two years. But the members of the ATL and Unison have voted to strike. In October, 93% of Unison members balloted opted for industrial action. In the ATL’s ballot, 84% chose to strike.
Dr Mary Bousted, the ATL’s general secretary, said,
“If Durham Council pushes ahead with these pay cuts, many teaching assistants will no longer be able to afford to work in schools and children will lose out. When schools are struggling to find teachers, it seems crazy to lose teaching asisstants as well because of ill-thought-through and deeply unfair changes.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, said, “No one should have to face a salary cut of almost a quarter. These staff have been treated appallingly.”
Unison County Durham Branch secretary, Neville Handcock said,
“Teaching assistants are a vital part of our schools and should be treated accordingly. It’s time for the council to change its plan and abandon these horrendous pay cuts.”
The TAs plan to lobby Durham County Hall on Wednesday 9th November at 9 am. On the same day at noon, Dave Prentis will address a rally at the Miners’ Association, Redhills.
Durham County Council claims that the contract changes are necessary to avoid costly legal action from other council workers who are already paid by the hour. John Hewitt, the council’s corporate director of resources, said,
“This is really about an equal pay and a fairness issue relating to our teaching assistants whereby the hours they are being paid are in excess of the hours they work.”
“We’ve got specific legal advice that tells us that we need to address the situation to avoid an equal pay risk occuring. So the council does need to put in place contracts that reflect the actual hours worked.”