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‘Don’t axe school support staff’

‘Vote for education,’ urges union as school celebrates its support staff and warns of job losses

06 December, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Rosary support staff including Barbara Meschini, Ginelle Stuart, Karen Coleman, Norah Browne, Sarah Newton, Geraldine Kelly, Jenny Wheatley, Mandy Long, Rita Lyon, Fiona Hunt, Jacqueline Hayter, Georgie Ashby, Kathleen Pagnal, Joan Solomons, Anna Scott-Horne and Tayyaba Ahmed

An education union says schools in Camden are facing the prospect of an average loss of £610 per pupil, as they urged parents to consider carefully who to vote for at next week’s general election.

On its new website, the National Education Union, previously the NUT, detail how much each school was at risk of losing if different party manifestos were applied.

Gerald Clark, the union’s branch secretary in Camden, said: “The information is clear for every parent, teacher, head teacher and member of school staff. On our website, they can immediately see how the funding for their school depends on who forms the next government. We don’t tell people who to vote for. But we would ask them to do their homework before they vote and we do ask them to vote for education.”

Falling funding has been an issue in Camden in recent years, compounded by a slide in applications for school places. The amount of money each school receives hinges on pupil numbers.

Carlton Primary School in Kentish Town is currently in talks to avoid closure (see page 15).

Meanwhile, the Rosary Primary School in Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, has warned against the loss of support staff and an event was held on Friday to celebrate their work.

Organiser Annie Scott-Horne, a nursery nurse and Unison rep at Rosary, said: “Support staff are the unsung heroes of our school and are the children’s constant role models. They are extremely dedicated and without them the school wouldn’t survive. Today is just about saying thank you. We just have to celebrate the here and now and enjoy each other.”

Rosary Primary have 26 children in their nursery this year, down from 39 two years ago. The council say a falling birth rate and problems with housing supply lie behind a fall in applications.

Ms Scott-Horne added: “All schools in Camden are changing. The numbers of what schools are losing per pupil are ridiculous. It is worrying when we are just not sure what will happen. There is uncertainty for everyone.”

The school budget for Rosary is down by £120,000 this year. Before the general election campaign kicked off, the government repeatedly insisted it is pumping more money than ever into schools.

The New Journal reported earlier this year there were 78 staff redundancies in schools across the borough in 2018.

Barbara Meschini, a senior admin officer at Rosary, who has been at the school for 25 years, said: “Some people are uncertain about their jobs which are insecure in the current climate. The first people to go are the support staff. But it is our livelihood. We’ve had generations come to the school. When you care it filters through.”

Jacqueline Hayter, who has been at the school for 19 years, said: “My son passed away unexpectedly in July and this school was my rock. They will help you through. We are like the kids’ second mums and dads. It is one big happy family. Although it is a faith school it also includes lots of other religions. It is inclusive.”

Headteacher Sophie Kennedy said: “We hope that our wonderful support staff feel appreciated and valued every day, but we are thrilled to have this special date on which we can officially celebrate everything this incredible group of people do for everyone in our Rosary family.”

The school funding website can be found at www.schoolcuts.org.uk

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