Students strike at Cowes school

By Emily Pearce

Friday, April 4, 2014

 

Students strike at Cowes school

Students strike at Cowes Enterprise Academy. Picture by Robin Crossley.

UPDATED 16:14*

STUDENTS went on strike at Cowes Enterprise College this morning (Friday) in support of school staff set to lose their jobs.

Shortly after registration at 8.30am, hundreds of students walked out of class, waving banners and chanting 'save our teachers.'

They were protesting at plans to make 26 support staff and five teachers redundant, as the school looks to cut costs in light of falling student numbers. As revealed in the County Press today, the school is facing a projected budget deficit of almost £900,000.

The protest was organised via social media last night (Thursday).

A huge crowd amassed on the school field, chanting 'who are you?' at school principal Rebecca Pearce — who demanded the County Press leave the school site — as she tried address students through a megaphone.

Head girl Jenny Stokell, 17, said the protest showed how strongly students felt about supporting their teachers and support staff.

"It shows how valuable we think the staff are. The restructuring hasn't come from the school, it's come from Ormiston. It's a shame the fantastic staff who've done so much to improve the school, as we're looking to come out of special measures, are losing their jobs," she said.

The Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) is set to take over the school in September, when the new staff structure is due to be implemented.

Leader of the student council Zoe Divers, 17, said: "I was a bit sceptical at first, because it didn't seem very professional. But considering the kids have organised this off their own bat, it shows how much support they have for the staff.

"The job losses will really affect Learning Support Assistants, who are vital. They've played a big part in improving behaviour, which is helping us out of special measures."

Staff have also reacted with anger to the proposed job and pay cuts and, as reported in today's County Press, the Unison and GMB unions have said a vote of no confidence in Cowes Enterprise College bosses looks increasingly likely.

Ms Pearce declined to comment, but told the County Press a statement would be issued in due course.

Firefighters were called to the school playing fields at 9.45am following an fire involving a aerosol can. The fire was extinguished by a member of staff.

A police spokesman confirmedofficers has been made aware of the inicident and attended the school, but had not been required to take any action.

*College principal Rebecca Pearce said: "Students were allowed onto the college field after registration this morning to carry out a peaceful protest about their concerns on the proposed staff restructure.

"They were asked to present their case in a civilised manner, and all issues raised will be taken into consideration once the consultation period comes to an end on May 2nd.

"We understand the students’ frustration over the proposed restructure, and as today has shown, Cowes Enterprise pupils are passionate about the college and staff, and we will be looking at all the concerns raised during the peaceful protest."

A spokesman for the governing body said: "Two years ago we announced to staff that we would be reviewing the staffing structure once we had moved into the new build. This restructure is for economic reasons, not as a result of the conversion to academy status.

"Students are entitled to a peaceful protest, and their points will be listened to by the governing body. We are disappointed that a small number have turned this into something more.

"This is a difficult time, and we have to ensure that our budgets are balanced. In these times, it is important to understand that we have to operate within our means. Governors value the teaching and support staff and we are keen to work collectively. The structure is still under consultation and until that is completed, no decisions will be made regarding the restructure.

"Ofsted has already reported improvements, and has been supportive of the need to restructure. The governing body is fully supportive of the principal, Rebecca Pearce who is leading further improvement at the college."

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk

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