Published: 16:20, 01 February 2013
by Dan Bloom
Unions have condemned a flagship academy for axing up to a third of its core staff weeks before opening a £23m new campus.
The Bishop of Rochester Academy is consulting about 60 people with plans to make about half of them redundant - including about 60% of the school’s entire stock of teaching assistants.
Those sent “at risk” letters are also thought to include cover supervisors, catering assistants and pastoral support staff.
Principal Colin Boxall, pictured, said the cuts are due to moving from two sites to one, the £23m Magpie Hall Road campus which is due to open in April.
But he added falling government grants and pupil numbers were also to blame.
GMB Union branch secretary Mike Ongley said: “I feel the financial side at the school as been mis-managed and my members are picking up the brunt of this.
“You’ve got a lot of kids there with problems or who don’t speak English, and they’re the ones who will have to pick up the pieces.”
Distressed staff were told last Friday about the move, with one of the reasons given as being poor literacy levels among pupils.
Teachers will now do more of the work of teaching assistants within smaller classes, said Mr Boxall, but unions say this will put them under too much pressure.
Unison claimed the school got into debt after overestimating its intake and having funding clawed back by Medway Council.
Area organiser Suzanne Tipping said: “It’s difficult to see how a rise in standards can be maintained with a reduction in staff.”
The move comes less than three years after the academy opened following the the merger of Chatham South and Medway Community College.
The school was showing signs of improvement after a turbulent first year, which saw pupil walk-outs and the suspension of principal Chris Sweetman.
But it is set to be the worst-hit in Medway by proposed government funding changes.
Mr Boxall claimed the “mis-management” claims were “complete nonsense - we get allowances for two sites and those allowances are going on to one site.”
He added: “All the unions were invited before we presented to staff and the GMB union didn’t turn up.
“It’s been known [that we would move to one site] and it’s been repeated to staff that we would have to reduce staffing.
He said he had no choice, adding: “It’s really sad when people lose their jobs, it really is difficult, but we have to work within our budget.”
More on this story in Monday's Medway Messenger.