Teachers who work closely with young children with special needs and disabilities look set to strike.
The National Union of Teachers in East Sussex has received a 100 percent ‘yes’ vote for strike action from members who work for the county council’s Special Education Needs Services.
The NUT is opposing plans to remove Early Years Specialist Teachers from school teachers contracts and onto terms and conditions that will see them take up to a 25 percent pay cut per hour and stop them paying into the teachers’ pension scheme.
The Early Years Team work with children approaching and at school age who have special educational needs and disabilities.
The NUT ballot also covers a number of Special Education needs teams across the county who support disabled children, pupils with sensory impairment, pupils with English as an additional language and others.
Phil Clarke, secretary of Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NUT said: “The vital work these teachers do is being sacrificed to save money leaving vulnerable young children without the support they need.
“Already these changes have resulted in half the team leaving, meaning four teachers having supervisory responsibly for 600 children. Concerns are growing that the service will not be able to meet its statutory obligation to assess all children with in the legal time frame.
He added: “We still hope to avoid strike action but we need East Sussex County Council to negotiate in good faith. Attempts at talks and mediation with ACAS have failed because the county are seemingly not willing to compromise on any level, despite the damage being done to the support for children and families, as professionals leave the service.”
A spokesperson for ESCC said: “We are surprised and disappointed that the NUT have chosen to issue a press release well in advance of the conclusion of our internal dispute resolution procedure. There has been a long period of consultation with more than 300 staff members on changes to services resulting from the implementation of the national reform agenda. It is worth noting that this dispute relates to four staff members.
“While acknowledging that the proposals will result in changes for the staff concerned, moving from a standard teaching week of 32.5 hours to 37 hours per week and from 38 weeks per year to 52 weeks per year, with an annual leave entitlement, in line with other council staff and the early years education providers with whom they are working.
“As acknowledged by the NUT, the staff affected are in advisory roles rather than directly teaching children.
“The council remains committed to resolving this matter and ensuring that we have a well-qualified and appropriate workforce that can best meet the interests of some of our more vulnerable children and families.
“We do recognise change is difficult and will continue to engage with staff and unions to resolve this dispute. To that end, the proposal is to protect the staff members’ pay for three years.
“We believe that strike action would be detrimental to children and families and not appropriate at this stage, particularly as the dispute resolution process has not yet been exhausted.”