Parents of children at the ‘outstanding’ More House School in Frensham are growingly increasingly concerned that an ongoing industrial dispute over pensions could drive vitally-needed specialist teachers out of the school.
As a special school for children who have struggled in mainstream education, More House is more reliant on experienced, specially-trained teaching staff than most.
And after the end of the summer term was marred by strike action, parents are worried that unless the dispute is resolved quickly, more experienced teachers may leave More House and be replaced by teachers less equipped to provide the specialist education their children need.
One parent said many families have spent years finding a school able to meet their child’s requirements, and many have moved long distances and even countries to send their children to More House.
But with the summer holidays around the corner, she added parents were “very worried that parents don’t have a clear idea what they will be returning to in September”.
The dispute centres around proposed changes to pensions which the National Education Union (NEU) says would result in a 5.18 per cent real-terms pay cut. The union says school governors have threatened to force through the changes by use of the controversial ‘fire and rehire’ procedure, with dismissal (without redundancy pay) of staff who refuse to sign a new contract.
Strikes have taken place on six occasions between June 15 and July 6.
Laurence Rose, NEU regional development officer, said a meeting was held with parents last Thursday “with all voices supporting the strike action and urging the school to find a way of resolving this dispute”.
However, Mr Rose added More House School was maintaining its position.
He continued: “Members are taking strike action with huge reluctance, but the employer has not engaged in any negotiation during this process, offering only the minimum statutory consultation.
“It is therefore looking very likely that future days of strike action will be needed in the autumn term.”
He added several teachers had already left the school over the issue, and said it was “highly likely that more will follow should the employer continue to refuse to implement this unagreed contractual change”.
A spokesperson for More House School said: “Our staff are a fantastic group of people who share our commitment to giving every child at our school the very best start to their life.
“There are, however, significant challenges for all schools to overcome in terms of both the funding we receive and the costs that we incur to keep our school open.
“It is no secret that, like many schools, we have had to use our reserves this year to ensure we are able to continue to provide an excellent education for the children and families we are fortunate enough to support.
“This is not sustainable, which is why governors are looking at how we can best meet the needs of our existing pupils while ensuring we are still here to educate children for generations to come.
“We have worked with staff through a consultation process, and have already increased the pension contribution level that was outlined at the start of that process.
“Governors have considered all the feedback we have received, and we are hopeful to be in a position to provide an update shortly.”