GMB announce rejection of proposed pay cuts to School Support Staff in Swindon

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GMB, the trade union for school support staff, have announced an overwhelming rejection of a proposed pay cut by Swindon Borough Council. The union is now extending the ballot to an additional 400 staff working in some Academy Schools, who are also affected.

Over 500 members of the GMB union, who include teaching assistants, caretakers, school librarians, administrative staff and other school workers have already been balloted. GMB has announced that 96% of the votes were to reject the Swindon Borough Council proposals.

The proposed changes by Swindon Borough Council apply to school support staff working for Swindon Borough Council who will now get a smaller pay increment each year as they work towards the top of their pay grade.

In Swindon, many of the schools are now self administered Academies, who do not have to follow Swindon Borough Council’s terms and condition. GMB has contacted all Academies and several have already agreed that they will not be introducing the pay cut. Negotiations are ongoing with some Academies and GMB is now balloting Academy staff who now will be affected by the change.

Carole Vallelly, GMB regional officer, said: “It’s a bit complicated and not the same for everyone, but for example, some staff would have had an increment of £883 in their second year and now will only have £350. Some GMB members will be £679 per year worse off by the time they have been there 5 years and reached the top of the grade. For those on a higher grade, they will be a huge £1,765 per year worse off after 5 years. The bottom and top of the grades are the same, but it used to take 5 years to reach the top of the grade, whereas it now takes either 7 or 9 years. This is a slow motion pay cut.

GMB welcomes the positive attitude of Academies who are not implementing the pay cut, and has written to several hundred members in those schools explaining that the changes will not have any detrimental effect on them.

It is wrong that some of the lowest paid staff are being penalized, and GMB is particularly concerned that there was not even a proper process of consultation with us first. However, I am pleased to confirm that since we rolled out the ballot, I have already had conversations with Swindon Borough council managers, and they have now agreed to negotiate. We are meeting on 14th December. GMB are confident that a negotiated solution is possible, but if we cannot reach agreement I will go back to our members to consult them about what they wish to do next.”

Contact: Carole Vallelly on 01793 818005 or Michelle Gordon on 07866 369259


Notes to Editors

1) GMB has been a recognized trade union with Swindon Borough Council for many years, and is the largest union for school support staff in both Swindon and Wiltshire.


2) Swindon Borough Council has historically had slightly different pay scales from schools in the rest of the country. There has been, relatively recently, a national pay award. GMB members were balloted on that pay award and it was accepted. In order to give effect to that pay increase, there has been a recent process that Swindon Borough Council has called “assimilation” where some individuals have been moved on the pay scale, just so that the national pay rise could be given to them. This does not seem to have had a detrimental effect on any GMB members. This is not the issue that GMB are balloting about.
A number of very low paid staff were working at less than the national living wage of £7.20 and recently received a pay rise to comply with the law.


3) Previous GMB press release dated 24 November 2016
It is scandalous that Swindon Borough Council are seeking to reduce the pay of School Support Staff still further says GMB Southern
GMB, the union for school support staff, is balloting around 500 members over a pay cut that has been introduced by Swindon Borough Council without negotiation with the union. The proposed change is planned to take effect in April 2017, when many school staff will receive a reduced uplift to their pay.
GMB is balloting members who work directly for Swindon Borough Council but is seeking clarification from Academies in Swindon whether they will implement the same changes as the council. Those Academies planning to follow Swindon Borough Council’s lead will also have their staff balloted.

GMB had a meeting with Swindon Borough Council on 6th October to avoid possible confrontation. At that meeting the council promised to meet GMB for further negotiation but subsequently council managers have declined a further meeting. This has left GMB with no alternative but to ballot their members to see whether they accept or reject the change. The ballot will run for 2 weeks, closing on 2nd December
Swindon Borough Council’s schools are heading for more trouble, following the damning open letter issued by Ofsted, the schools inspection authority on 11th November. (See notes to editors for copy of Ofsted’s letter)

Carole Vallelly, GMB regional officer, said: “School support staff, which include teaching assistants, caretakers, office staff, librarians and other non teaching staff, are incredibly dedicated and hard working and are both under-appreciated and under-rewarded, as their wages are far too low already. It is scandalous that Swindon Borough Council are seeking to reduce their pay still further.
The issue that GMB are balloting over is the introduction of new pay points within the scales of pay increments that staff receive each year until they reach the top of the pay scale. Some staff would now have to work a whopping 9 years to reach the top of the pay scale, instead of the current 5 years. This is, therefore, a slow motion pay cut that affects those who show dedication and stay in the job for the long term most harshly.

As this is a change to GMB members’ terms and conditions, they have a right to be balloted on whether they accept the change. As GMB is a recognized trade union with Swindon Borough Council, their failure to negotiate is a breach of contract. We do not believe these changes are acceptable and are recommending rejection of this proposal by our members.”


4) Ofsted letter 11 November 2016
John Gilbert, The Chief Executive, Swindon Borough Council
Cllr David Renard, Leader, Swindon Council
Cllr Fionuala Foley, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
Karen Reeve, Director of Children’s Services, Swindon
All headteachers, Swindon
All chairs of governors, Swindon,
Rebecca Clark, Regional Schools Commissioner, South West
Chief executives of multi-academy trusts, Swindon
Justin Tomlinson MP, North Swindon
Robert Buckland MP, South Swindon

Dear colleagues

School performance in Swindon

Following the inspection of Swindon Borough Council’s arrangements for supporting school improvement and my letter to the leader of the council, I am writing to share my deepening concern over the poor performance of Swindon’s schools.

I have raised such issues in writing with the council on at least three occasions in the past. At times, the council has been, frankly, defensive in its response.

I am, therefore, widening the audience of this letter so that no key player in Swindon’s schools can be in any doubt of the seriousness of the situation. In short, in 2016, Swindon’s children were failed by its schools at every key stage.

Primary school performance, which has previously shown a positive trend of improvement in Swindon, is now a concern.

The 2016 phonics outcomes for Swindon are some of the poorest in the country, with only 76% of six-year-olds meeting the expected standard. This places Swindon in the bottom 10 local authorities, nationally.

At key stage 1, Swindon’s seven-year-olds are the joint lowest performers in reading in the south west.

At key stage 2, Swindon’s outcomes are amongst the lowest in the country with only 44% of 11-year-olds reaching the new expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics. Only two per cent of pupils reached a higher standard in reading, writing and mathematics compared with five per cent nationally in England.

At key stage 4, pupils’ outcomes raise similar concerns. Headline measures for these pupils are below national across the board. It is also worrying to see so few pupils at Swindon secondary schools achieving the English Baccalaureate. Just 17.3% of pupils were successful in 2016, which places Swindon in the bottom 20 local authorities in England for this measure.

Recent inspections of five secondary schools in Swindon indicate a trend of decline. While the The Ridgeway School & Sixth Form College maintained its good rating, Kingsdown School failed to improve from requires improvement, Churchfields Academy declined from good to requires improvement, The Dorcan Academy and Isambard Community School declined from requires improvement to inadequate.

The proportion of pupils attending a good secondary school in Swindon has now declined from the previous 52% at 31 August 2015 to just 47% at 30 September 2016.

The proportion of pupils receiving a fixed-term exclusion is alarmingly high in both secondary and special schools in Swindon. The 2015 data shows that the fixed-period exclusions per pupil in secondary schools were 10.08% compared to the national average of 7.51%. In Swindon special schools, this figure was 68.36% compared to the national average of 13.54%.

In the light of the continuing and deepening concerns about school performance in Swindon, I urge all involved in leading and supporting these schools to take immediate action to bring about rapid and sustained improvements across the authority. Headteachers, chief executives of multi-academy trusts, senior political leaders, governors, local authority officers and the regional schools commissioner must act swiftly and in unison to ensure that pupils in Swindon have better outcomes and the skills and qualifications to improve their life chances and employment prospects.

Yours sincerely

Bradley Simmons HMI
Regional Director, South West