Say NO to £650k SEND cuts

Tower Hamlets Council is proposing to cut support provided to children with SEND by up to £650,000.  The proposals will see 13.5 of the current 28.5 posts deleted from the Support for Learning Service (SLS).

Sign our petition.

The SLS is a team of specialist teachers who work with SENCos, teachers and TAs to fully include children with SEND in our schools and pre-school settings.

The plans would see cuts:

  • From 5.5 to 2 teachers on the Visually Impaired Team
  • From 6.6 to 3 teachers on the Deaf and Partially Hearing Team
  • All 3.9 posts on the Specific Learning Difficulties Team and all 3.7 in the Language & Communication Team deleted and replaced by just 2 teachers for Language, Literacy & Communication.

The SLS would become advisory, with very limited direct work with pupils.  Schools will be responsible for meeting the needs of growing numbers of high needs pupils but with a drastic reduction in specialist assessments, training and expertise.

These cuts will have a devastating impact on children, families and schools, at a time when they need it most – during a pandemic. 

Pupils with SEND have been hit hardest by Covid: these cuts will only deepen inequalities. 

A recent survey of provision during “lockdown” praised the SLS for its support to vulnerable families.

Tower Hamlets Council should not be making these cuts at any time, let alone during a pandemic when we have just come out of “lockdown.”

Join our campaign to oppose these cuts and support SEND children in our schools.

  1. Sign our petition to stop these cuts.

2. Come to our public zoom meeting on Wednesday 21st October at 6pm

Zoom Link: 880 1048 3942

Password: THNEU

5th October 2020

Update 5th October 2020

This is an updated version of guidance that was sent out on 30th September 2020.

We are now four weeks into term and it has been great to see all the positive things that are going on in schools to support children and their families. The hard work of school staff across the borough, to make things as safe as possible, is to be applauded.

Naturally, with the number of Covid-19 cases rising, there is a still a lot of anxiety and a number of concerns are coming up.

We are here to offer information, advice and support, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

It is important that we all follow the advice on hygiene and cleaning, and that the guidelines on symptoms, testing and isolation are followed in schools.

The current case rate in Tower Hamlets is now 60 per 100,000, which means we are on the government “intervention list”. If the current measures do not bring the rate down we may see further intervention.

Mayor John Biggs has written an open letter to Tower Hamlets residents asking people to refrain from visiting other households in the borough unless absolutely necessary.

We are in regular contact with the Local Authority and Public Health England (PHE) to discuss the situation and we receive updates on cases affecting schools.

Thirty schools in Tower Hamlets have reported positive cases and have had to take some measures to isolate children and/or staff, following advice from PHE. It is important that, where a child or member of staff develops symptoms or tests positive, information is shared with staff in a timely fashion.

NEU SCHOOL COVID MAP
The NEU has published a interactive website where you can find out the Covid-19 rate around your school.

Questions from members

We have had a few queries from Reps and members. Our answers may also be of use to you:

LOSS OF PAY
Any member of staff who has to stay at home for whatever reason, should remain on full pay. This includes staff who have to remain at home for childcare reasons because their child has been told to isolate. If you are in this situation and it is being suggested that you will lose pay, please talk to your Rep and contact us immediately. Clearly staff who are not ill with Covid-19 but have to remain at home can work from home.

HIGHER RISK GROUPS
Staff who were previously shielding should have an individual risk assessment which should identify what measures the school can take to minimise the risk to that person and their contacts with other members of the school community. The NEU believes that where possible staff in these categories should be allowed to work from home.

LESSON OBSERVATIONS
With this being such a strange start to the school year, with staff settling in to some unusual routines, the NEU does not believe it is appropriate to return to lesson observations, learning walks, book scrutiny etc. We are discussing this with the LA and headteacher unions and hope we will have some joint guidance on this soon. If this is an issue in your school we suggest calling a meeting for NEU members to discuss – we can support you in this.

You can see the full range of NEU advice on our local NEU website.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE POSTERS
The Union is very aware of the high levels of domestic abuse and violence in our society which the Covid-19 crisis has further exposed. The Union is developing a model workplace policy and guidance which will be launched in November to coincide with the UN Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls.

In the meantime, the Union has produced three versions of a poster for display in your schools. You can download the posters here. Pull-out versions will also be available in the next edition of the NEU magazine, Educate.

CUTS TO SEND PROVISION IN TOWER HAMLETS

Tower Hamlets Council is proposing to cut support provided to children with SEND by up to £650,000.  The proposals will see 13.5 of the current 28.5 posts deleted from the Support for Learning Service (SLS).

The SLS is a team of specialist teachers who work with SENCos, teachers and TAs to fully include children with SEND in our schools and pre-school settings.

The plans would see cuts:

  • From 5.5 to 2 teachers on the Visually Impaired Team
  • From 6.6 to 3 teachers on the Deaf and Partially Hearing Team
  • All 3.9 posts on the Specific Learning Difficulties Team and all 3.7 in the Language & Communication Team deleted and replaced by just 2 teachers for Language, Literacy & Communication.

The SLS would become advisory, with very limited direct work with pupils.  Schools will be responsible for meeting the needs of growing numbers of high needs pupils but with a drastic reduction in specialist assessments, training and expertise.

These cuts will have a devastating impact on children, families and schools, at a time when they need it most – during a pandemic. 

Pupils with SEND have been hit hardest by Covid: these cuts will only deepen inequalities. A recent survey of provision during “lockdown” praised the SLS for its support to vulnerable families.

Tower Hamlets Council should not be making these cuts at any time, let alone during a pandemic when we have just come out of “lockdown.”

Join our campaign to oppose these cuts and support SEND children in our schools. Please register for the public meeting to stop these cuts on 21st October 2020.

Zoom Link: 880 1048 3942

Password: THNEU

Next General Members Meeting

Our next Zoom meeting for NEU members is on Monday 19th October at 5:30pm and you can register to attend here.

5th October 2020

Covid-19 Map for schools and colleges

As part of our campaign to keep our schools and communities safe, the NEU has launched a new website.

www.schoolcovidmap.org.uk will include accurate, up-to-date information about the Covid-19 rate in areas around schools and colleges.

Click here to check the coronavirus rate in your local area.

The website will also provide campaign steps that parents, carers and school staff can take to support the union’s asks of Government to make schools and colleges safer.

The data will show the number of Covid-19 cases locally and whether they are increasing or decreasing. It will also show the ‘watchlist’ status of the local authority area and link to any local restrictions that are in place.

This website will help focus public concern about the Government’s coronavirus response and what it could do better to make our schools safer. It does not replace the important discussions you and other members need to have with your head teacher around safety.

On the website, we will ask parents, carers and school staff to support our demands and to ensure that we have:

  • Much quicker testing, for staff and students and a move towards asymptomatic testing of staff and older pupils, like in the NHS and care homes.
  • Smaller class sizes and bubbles, especially in areas where cases are highest. We have Nightingale courts and hospitals; we want Nightingale classes too.
  • Guarantees that vulnerable staff be allowed to work from home, especially in areas where cases are highest.
  • Funding to ensure that all schools and colleges have the money they need to keep as safe as possible.
  • A Public Health review of all school outbreaks, involving heads and unions, to ensure the best possible safety advice is being given.

Please help our campaign by sharing details of our website with family and friends, contacting your MP through the site’s email action and sharing our demands for greater safety in schools.

Keeping our schools and communities safe

Speakers

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, NEU

Rushanara Ali MP

Apsana Begum MP

(Other speakers to be confirmed)

Come to the public meeting Tower Hamlets and the City NEU are holding on Wednesday 30th September with Tower Hamlets Unison to discuss our concerns at the lack of testing and discuss how children and families can be supported in this difficult time.

School staff are welcome to attend.

How can I attend?

Details of how to access the meeting on zoom:

Meeting ID 826 6427 9506

Password 456174

Tower Hamlets & the City Update 21st September 2020

FACTSHEET: SYMPTOMS, TESTING AND ISOLATION
DOWNLOAD HERE


We are only three weeks into the new term and already we can see that the government is letting schools down, through its failure to have a robust system of testing and tracing in place, and a clear plan to support schools when positive cases occur.

The government says that keeping schools open is a priority and that closing them will be a last resort.

The NEU agrees with this and we know that, across Tower Hamlets, school staff have worked hard to put measure in place to welcome children back from the start of term.

However, for the return to schools to be sustainable we urgently need:

• Clearer guidance and support systems
• A much better system of test and trace
• Funding to employ more staff and reduce class sizes
Plan B for when closures do have to happen
• Greater support for children and families
• Measures to address the “digital divide
The government had six months to prepare for this, and the uncertainty many of us feel at the moment is down to them.

Letters
  1. Tower Hamlets and the City NEU has sent this letter to our local Tower Hamlets councillors and MPs, highlighting our concerns and asking for their support in raising these issues with the government.
  2. The National Education Union has sent this letter to Boris Johnson. Read the NEU press release on this letter and the failure of the government to address school safety.
Joint General Secretaries video

SYMPTOMS, TESTING AND ISOLATING
In response to queries from NEU members we have produced this briefing and leaflet, outlining the steps to be taken in various scenarios when people display symptoms of Covid-19. We trust you will find this helpful. If you have had any experiences of getting a test, or trying to get a test, that you would like to share with us please email me.

JOIN OUR MEETING ON MONDAY
We will be discussing these issues, and how we can to continue to support members, at our NEU Zoom meeting on Monday 21st September at 5:00pm. All members are invited and I would encourage to come along and join the discussion – register for the meeting here.

That’s all for now, if you have any questions or concerns please talk to your school Rep or contact us.

Tower Hamlets NEU Update 14th September 2020

Tower Hamlets NEU Meeting

Monday 21st September

5:00pm via Zoom

Register here

The alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases is a cause of concern for all of us, and it seems likely that the situation facing schools will change dramatically over the next few weeks.

This highlights the importance of schools keeping their risk assessments under regular review and staff being able to raise concerns and have these discussed. Your role as NEU Rep is very important in this and we encourage you to set up regular catch-up meetings with your headteacher.

1. COVID-19 IN TOWER HAMLETS

We are monitoring the situation closely and we are in regular contact with local Public Health officials to make sure we have the latest information, which we will share with you each week.

i) Local case rate: in the week commencing Monday 7th September there were 73 new cases confirmed in Tower Hamlets. This is equivalent to approximately 24 new cases per 100,000 of the local population. This is still quite low, and there are no plans at this stage for a local intervention.

ii) Covid-19 cases in schools: since the beginning of term we have been informed of four schools which have reported confirmed cases of Covid-19 amongst staff – so far these have turned out to be single cases and there appears to have been no spread within the school. The schools affected are responding in line with advice from Public Health and the London Coronavirus Response Centre (LCRC) and we will be in contact with our Reps to discuss the situation.

iii) Dealing with suspected cases in schools: Here is a set of slides from Tower Hamlets Public Health, which outline the steps schools should take if there are suspected cases of Covid-19 amongst staff or pupils and then if there are positive:

Covid-19_cases powerpoint slides

Covid-19_cases PDF

It is worth discussing this with your head so everyone knows what is expected of them.

2. NEU LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER

The NEU has sent a strong letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, reiterating the measures that must be carried out, as a matter of urgency, if we are to ensure education continues for all pupils. The letter addresses our concerns about safety and also the need for a Plan B when schools are forced to close or send children home. I have attached a copy of the letter and the Union will be developing some campaigning steps around this in the next few weeks.

Read the letter to Boris Johnson here: NEU Letter to Prime Minister Schools

That’s all for now, we will contact you later in the week with other news – in the meantime please do register for our meeting next week, and encourage colleagues to do likewise.

Tower Hamlets NEU Update 8th September

TOWER HAMLETS NEU MEETING
Monday 21st September
5:00pm
via Zoom

We hope the start of term has gone as well as could be expected.

We are collecting reports from schools and, while there are good plans in place, there are some concerns beginning to arise.

It is important that schools have a system in place for staff to report any concerns and that SLT hold regular catch-up meetings with NEU Reps to discuss these and keep the situation under review.

The local case rate remains low and we will continue to monitor the situation and make sure the Local Authority is issuing clear advice to schools. Our local website has been updated with the latest advice from the NEU.

Please do alert us to any serious concerns, we are ready to support you and your colleagues.

TEACHER PAY AWARD

I have attached a card showing the agreed new teacher pay scales, effective from September 1st. Please make members aware of this and ask your head to confirm that these will be adopted in your school. Reps should also ask heads to confirm that all eligible teachers will be awarded pay progression this year.

DATES FOR NEU MEETINGS

We have set a schedule of meetings for this year, following our normal pattern of the third Monday every month at 5:00pm.

·      Monday 21st September

·      Monday 19th October

·      Monday 23rd November

·      Monday 25th January

·      Monday 22nd February

·      Monday 22nd March

·      Monday 26th April

·      Monday 24th May

·      Monday 21st June

For the time being these will continue to be held on Zoom. We will also hold Reps briefings and some online training sessions as and when necessary. Please make a note of these dates.

Download the flyer for your noticeboard: General Members Meeting September 2020

NQT RECRUITMENT

Please speak to any NQTs, or new members of staff in your school about joining the NEU – we now have over 2,700 members in Tower Hamlets and The City and we want to keep growing. Here is the link for joining the NEU – it is £1 for NQTs.

NEU SPECIAL CONFERENCE

The NEU is holding a special conference on Saturday October 3rd, this is instead of the annual conference which was postponed at Easter. Our delegates to the conference will be those colleagues who were elected to attend the Easter conference. The conference will discuss some rule changes and three motions from the Executive. We will consider possible amendments to these at our meeting on 21st September.

NEU OFFICER AND COMMITTEE VACANCIES

We currently have vacancies in our officer group for a support staff rep and independent school Rep. We also have a number of vacancies on the District Committee, which we would like to fill, particularly with some Reps from primary schools. If you are interested, or would like more information please let us know.

FINANCIAL STATEMENT FOR 2019/20

The NEU financial year runs from September 1st to August 31st and each District must present audited accounts to NEU HQ. The closing statement of accounts for 2019/20 will be presented to our next meeting where we can take any questions you may have.

That’s all for now, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any information, advice or support.

8th September 2020

September 2020 Coronavirus Briefing

The start of the new school year sees us moving into uncharted territory, with schools and colleges opening for all students and the virus still out there. We have not been helped in our preparations by the government who have failed to give clear guidance and delayed important announcements until the last minute.

The NEU believes that children should be back in school and that everything should be done to maintain this for as long as possible. That means having robust plans in place to ensure the safety of staff and children. It also means being ready to respond to changes in the local situation and having a clear outline of what happens if cases develop. The NEU has issued updated guidance for vulnerable members and a checklist for your workplace:

Vulnerable members advice 2020

Checklist for September 2020

This a brief guide of what we want Reps and members to know – for a full guide visit the NEU website.

  1. THE PLAN

Schools must have a full plan, or risk assessment, in place to welcome staff and students back at the beginning of term, this should be discussed and agreed with staff. This is covered by the NEU checklist and covers issues such as: hygiene • cleaning • groupings • movement around the building • start and finish times • lunch and break times • use of equipment • marking • meetings and more.  Reps should be consulted on the risk assessment and all staff should be made familiar with the arrangements.

  1. KEEP IT UNDER REVIEW

Many schools have thorough plans in place that meet the NEU checklist, but these have yet to be tested by the reality of having hundreds of adults and children on site – there will be things that don’t work, things people haven’t thought of and, above all, we must avoid complacency setting in.

It is important, therefore, that the plan is seen as a live document and kept under continual review. The NEU suggests that a system is set up for staff to refer any issues and that these are dealt with promptly. We also suggest a regular catch-up meeting between unions and SLT.

  1. PLAN B

It is equally important that schools are prepared for a change in circumstances and are ready to respond in the event of positive cases within the school or a rise in the local case rate. It is vital that everyone knows what to do if circumstances change and what their responsibilities are. Local figures are now available and the government has issued a four-tiered approach to guide local responses. As part of their Plan B schools should be ready to support home learning, if groups of children have to be sent home or the school has to close down again.

  1. FAQs

While we all want to be back in school, many staff are anxious and there are many questions from NEU members.

Full guidance is available on the website but here are some of the most commonly asked questions:

  • Vulnerable staff: individual risk assessments should be carried out for staff in higher risk groups, including pregnant women. Everything should be done to minimise risk to these members and where possible we recommend that they be allowed to work from home. Pregnant women in their third trimester should work from home.
  • Masks and face coverings: although the government advise that face coverings are not necessary, the NEU recommends that staff who wish to wear a face covering are allowed to do so. The advice on face coverings is being kept under review and schools should agree a policy with staff.
  • Quarantine: staff who have been instructed to quarantine on return from holiday should discuss the situation with their head and be available to work from home. Staff should not be deducted pay as a result of quarantine.

5. TEACHER PAY AWARD AND PAY PROGRESSION

New pay scales have been published incorporating the teacher pay award for September 2020. Reps should ask their head to confirm that these will be implemented for all teaching staff. https://neu.org.uk/pay-advice

Reps should also confirm that all eligible teachers will be awarded pay progression for September. No member of staff should be penalised if they have been unable to complete their appraisal.

Note: support staff received a 2.75% pay increase in April as part of the local government pay award.

We will issue further updates but please do check the NEU website www.neu.org.uk/coronavirus and contact us if you have any concerns about any aspect of this situation.

Thank you

TOWER HAMLETS ZOOM MEETING

Friday 28th August

4:00pm

Register here

We are almost at the end of perhaps the strangest year I have known in my time as local union officer.

It was a year which started off in familiar manner with a focus on school cuts and went on to include a snap general election, a local ballot for strike action, a pandemic leading to a lockdown, and finally the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and a renewed focus on the need to develop anti-racist strategies and approaches to teaching and learning in our schools.

These events have created many tests for us as education professionals and as members of the NEU – tests which I think we have passed, learning new ways of doing things in the process and showing that we can be agile in organising to support members in schools, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

In winning our ballot for local strike action we became the first NEU branch to do so. Although we did not take strike action, we have shown our strength and ability to organise across the branch – something from which we have already benefited and will continue to do so.

We should be extremely proud of the work we have done together in recent months, which has kept people safe and undoubtedly saved lives.

As a local branch of the NEU we have stepped up and delivered on Union policy, holding some of the biggest branch meetings the Union has seen.

The NEU has seen an increase of over 25,000 members and 3,000 new school reps since March 1st and these increases are reflected in our local membership.

None of this is possible without a team of committed school Reps who understand what we are trying to do and are able to take this to members in schools.

I want to pay tribute to all NEU Reps for the work you have done on behalf of members this year, which has made the Union stronger and more united.

You have all done an amazing job especially those of you who became Reps at the beginning of the pandemic – and not just in your own schools, but in supporting each other.

THANK YOU ALL

LOOKING AHEAD

Our focus now is on making sure the return to school in September is as safe as possible. We know that schools are using the NEU Checklist to create a framework which will be finalised towards the end of August when the situation is a bit clearer.

To help with this we will be holding a meeting for Tower Hamlets Reps and members on Friday 28th August at 4:00pm – this follows a national Reps call on Thursday 27th at 5:00pm – you can register for our meeting here.

In September we will also want to make sure that teachers receive the pay progression for which they are eligible and will bring colleagues together again to discuss how we take forward our anti-racist work.

That’s all from me – I will be taking a short break from next week but will be checking in on emails towards the end of August.

Now all that remains is for me to thank you once more and to wish you, your families and loved ones a restful and safe summer holiday and we will meet up again soon.

Alex Kenny

East End Matchwomen changed the world – they deserve a statue!

Tower Hamlets Council is consulting on the public spaces in the borough. Join Louise Raw’s campaign to have the Matchwomen of Bow commemorated.

Dr Louise Raw is the author of Striking a Light: the Bryant and May Matchwomen and their place in history. She explains here why the Matchwomen deserve a statue.

Near here, in Bow, Tower Hamlets, East End matchwomen changed the world! Their statue should stand close to Gladstone’s. Their strike in 1888 started the modern union movement. They were incredible & inspiring but regarded as the ’lowest of the low’ & a ‘rough set of girls’. The matchwomen who worked at the Bryant & May matchworks, Fairfield Rd, faced racism, and religious, class & gender prejudice.

Victorians ‘scientifically’ categorised the Irish (they mostly were) as Black- ‘a negroid race’. There were also Jewish matchwomen (this has only just come to light). They weren’t allowed to form a union. While their employers lived in country estates, & shareholders got 20% dividends, they were malnourished & died of ‘phossy jaw’.

Yet they won.

Their victory against exploitation was the first of its kind in England against such a powerful employer. The Dock Strike of 1889 was inspired by them. The story is misstold as being ‘led’ by Annie Besant (I have shown it wasn’t’) and even now, some want to replace the myth of her leadership with ONE other ‘Matchgirl’ (they were women) who it’s wrongly claimed was the ‘leader’.

My 23 years research has shown what’s so important is that they were a democracy – a sisterhood and cool girl gang! They were loyal to one another and even shared hats through their communal hat club, the Feather Club!

We should have a memorial to several women here including the ones Bryant & May thought were ringleaders, Alice France, Jane Wakeling, Kate Slater, Alice France and Eliza Martin; and Martha Robertson, the grandmother of local historian Ted Lewis, who lived nearby. Their lives are recorded in my book Striking a Light.

A memorial to the matchwomen close to the Gladstone statue (which they hated because their employers made them pay for it) it was a massive act of sycophancy by Brant & May who wanted government support for their brutal employment practices and use of white phosphorus. There is currently NO memorial to the brilliant matchwomen and we should put that right.

Please submit a nomination for a statue of the Matchwomen to Tower Hamlets Council by 12th July.

Click on Bow Road and fill in the online form to nominate them. You can use details from this blog to support your nomination.