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Union reveals skyrocketing number of calls from worried teachers as more job losses loom at academy trust

PUBLISHED: 05:30 16 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:55 16 May 2019

Bignold Primary School in Wessex Street, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Bignold Primary School in Wessex Street, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

An education union leader in Norfolk says his branch is being "absolutely inundated" with calls from teaching staff worried about their job security.

Scott Lyons, Norfolk National Education Union (NEU) secretary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYScott Lyons, Norfolk National Education Union (NEU) secretary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

It comes as more teaching assistants at a Norwich academy trust facing losing their jobs in a continuing struggle to balance its books.

Diversa Multi Academy Trust (MAT) is cutting around 33pc of the teaching assistant hours at its lead school, Bignold Primary.

The school in Wessex Street currently provides 665 hours of teaching assistant time per week, but the trust confirmed it is looking to reduce this by almost 200 hours as part of cost-saving measures.

It is understood that up to 26 teaching assistant posts could be affected by the cuts and that all staff are being asked to reapply for their positions.

Bignold Primary School staff and pupils celebrate their Bignold Primary School staff and pupils celebrate their "good" Ofsted result in 2016. Its managing academy trust, Diversa, says financial pressures are behind its decision to reducing teaching assistant hours at the school in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

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Scott Lyons, National Education Union (NEU) Norfolk secretary, said his branch was fielding calls from concerned members across the county in all types of schools.

"The government strangling schools financially is leaving schools with huge deficits, even in primary schools which have traditionally been managed in such a way that deficits have never been that big," he said.

"At the same time we have larger class sizes with fewer teachers. Schools are getting rid of support staff, not renewing contracts."

Clare Jones, executive headteacher at Bignold Primary School and Nursery. Picture: SubmittedClare Jones, executive headteacher at Bignold Primary School and Nursery. Picture: Submitted

Despite Bignold being one of the most popular primary schools in Norwich - it received 93 applications for the 60 places in its new reception intake for the 2019/20 academic year - senior leaders are struggling to make ends meet.

Clare Jones, the school's executive headteacher and Diversa MAT chief executive, said: "The rising costs of support staff and reduced central funding, even though we are full, means we have to make redundancies of 198.53 teaching assistant hours. It is a process that we are not taking lightly but are following the HR [human resources] process."

It follows news last month that Diversa MAT was making redundancies among the teaching assistants at its other schools, Angel Road Junior and Infant, known collectively as the Angel Road Federation.

Diversa's board of trustees said the decision was "necessary but regrettable" to combat rising staff costs, including increases in employer pension contributions and pay for support staff.

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