Bristol UNISON and NEU Bristol – Joint Press Release 18/01/2022
St Bonaventure’s Primary School members celebrate success in their fight against academisation
On Monday 17th January 2022, following a campaign by staff led by UNISON and NEU members, Governors at St Bonaventure’s RC Primary School voted against a proposal to convert to an academy to join the Cardinal Newman Educational Trust. Staff had not been fully consulted about the proposal and had serious concern about what the decision would mean for the future of the school, the pupils, and their jobs. Their objections were supported by parents who set up an online petition1 to ask the governors to delay the vote.
Last month, on the 7th December, staff at St Bonaventure’s RC Primary School were told the school was going to become an academy and that their employment would be transferred to The Cardinal Newman Catholic Educational Trust in March 2022. This was the start of what was due to be a TUPE consultation. Despite the TUPE process being underway the school governors were yet to meet and vote on the decision to join the trust; that vote wasn’t due to take place until Monday 13th December.
Staff contacted their unions (UNISON and National Education Union) for support and after a joint meeting, resolved to submit a letter signed by around 40 members of staff requesting the process be postponed and for them to have greater input into what would be a major decision affecting their school. UNISON and NEU also submitted a letter to the head and the board demanding that staff be listened to.
The board of governors responded by delaying the vote by a month. Some board members along with representatives from Bristol City Council HR and the new academy trust met with staff and union representative on Friday 14th January. They were repeatedly told that all the stakeholders had been consulted with and academisation was in the best interest of the school, despite it costing over £70,000 (520%) more a year than their current arrangement with the Council. Staff again asked in this meeting for a proper part in the decision making and consultation process and, with the governor vote now due to take place on Monday 17th January, for a further delay; a commitment to delay was refused.
UNISON and the NEU distributed flyers and talked with parents at the school gates on the morning of the vote to urge them to email governors in support of the staff’s demands. Many parents that were spoken to didn’t have much knowledge of what was due to happen and those who did shared that they didn’t feel like they’d been given much of a choice in whether it went ahead or not. The response from parents was fantastic with many committing to email the board and one parent setting up an online petition which gathered over 170 signatures in less than a day!
This morning staff were told that the governors had voted against the proposal. We are in no doubt that this was as a result of union members making their voices heard and the joint working of UNISON and the NEU. Without the hard work of teachers and staff alike, no school academy or otherwise could hope to achieve success. We urge employers to consider how they engage with staff through their unions on such fundamental changes to their employment, and not to plough ahead regardless without expecting resistance.
Josh Connor – Area Organiser, Bristol UNISON Joshua.email@example.com
Thomas Bolton – Bristol NEU Joint Branch and District Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org