Seven teachers resign over Bedford schools restructure

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Heart Multi Academies Trust Logo

Bedford Independent has learned that seven teachers have resigned from schools involved in the planned restructure of schools under Heart Multi Academies Trust (MAT), due to what Trade Unions have called ”the appalling way the redundancy process has been managed.”

Bedford Independent reported parents’ concern over the restructure in early October, when Heart MAT said Cauldwell, Shortstown and Shackleton schools would come under one executive head, with current headteachers either taking a lesser role or accepting redundancy.

Parent Governor bodies were also due to be disbanded. Deputy head and assistant head roles at each school were also at risk.

These plans have been halted while mediation between Heart MAT and the SSC Action Group, made up of parents of pupils at the schools, takes place.

However, the SSC Action group now say they are concerned that even with the restructure being halted, there may not even be enough staff to educate their children: “Since the Trust announced their proposed re-structure in September, Shortstown has received notices from seven teaching staff, who will leave by end of this term this includes teachers from the same year groups in some cases,” said an SSC spokesperson. “In the same period, Cauldwell has lost five staff including teaching, finance, and facilities. Staff turnover has been minimal up until now.”

Trade Unions say the reasons for staff leaving is down to the management of the Trust and the appalling way the redundancy process has been handled.

Heart MAT have confirmed seven teachers, five from Shortstown and one from Cauldwell, have resigned since October and will finish when schools close for Christmas.
 
But Heart MAT have contest the additional five included in the SSC Action Group’s statement. Bedford Independent has contacted the SSC Action group and Trade Unions for clarification.
 
Meanwhile, in a statement, the SSC Action Group acknowledged considerable progress has been made in their campaign over the past six weeks, including Heart Academy Trust putting a ‘stop to the process’, and acknowledgment from Heart Academies Trust of their poor communications.

This news comes just over a week since the resignation of Hanif Patel, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Heart Multi Academies Trust and less than 24 hours after the resignation of Claire Smith the Trust’s CEO.

A spokesperson for the SSC Action Group said: “Although it is regrettable that Claire Smith has felt the need to resign from the Trust, we feel this offers an opportunity for the Trust to recruit a fresh new CEO without any previous involvement of the Trust or the proposed restructure in order for parents to rebuild faith and Trust.

“We now call on the Heart Academies Trust and the Harpur Trust to unequivocally scrap the proposed restructure, and instead concentrate on retaining the exceptional head teachers and other staff within the schools.

“We further call for a focus on recruiting replacements for lost teachers and the implementation of the actions from the governance reform following the conclusion of the independent governance review.”

The SSC Action group have also welcomed a recent governance review which will immediately begin recruiting a number of new independent Trustees with the right skills to strengthen and balance the Board. Heart MAT hope to have this work completes by March 2019.

Heart MAT are also seeking dates in December to hold initial meetings with the parent group and with Local Governing Bodies to find a way to work together for the best outcomes for children in the Heart MAT schools.

A spokesperson for Heart MAT added: “We are pleased to see the level of interest among parents in this process is high, which we believe reflects the positive steps being made in the mediation process. However, there are restrictions on what we can say due to issues of employee confidentiality and the fact that we are in the very earliest stages of recruiting a new chief executive.

“What’s increasingly clear is that parents, staff and the Trust are all trying to achieve the same aims: to ensure that pupils’ education is not disrupted and that the Trust is well resourced in order to maintain progress and stability.

“With regard to the outlining the next steps for the Trust in terms of the organisation and running of its schools, this will be the responsibility our new chief executive and trustees, the chair of whom we are also recruiting. It would be inappropriate for the Trust to attempt to second guess their decisions at this stage.

“We can assure parents that when pupils return to their schools in January 2019, classes will be staffed and teaching will continue to achieve the best possible results. We will also ensure that parents and staff are kept informed of progress and the chief executive recruitment process.”

The SSC Action Group is now also highlighting various questions they would like answered, including what the Heart MAT is doing to persuade staff to stay and what the Harpur Trust are doing to help manage the crisis.

In response to this, a spokesperson for The Harpur Trust said: “The Harpur Trust fully supports the intentions of the Trustees of the HEART Academies Trust to strengthen and balance the board, through the recruitment of new Trustees and a new and independent Chair. As sponsor, The Harpur Trust also shares the ambition to rebuild relationships so that the HEART schools can provide the very best possible education and life chances for pupils in the community.”