Parents are worried, angry, upset, anxious and are now speaking out. Yes, they will be disrupted by the strike action, but they are behind the TAs, and other school support staff, and are annoyed about what the Council is implementing and how they are jeopardising their children’s future. But is the Council listening?
The lunchtime strikes next week will cause the parents many practical problems.
Corine Henry whose children go to Lakeside school on London Road, explained how she, and other parents, have been discussing options with the Head Teacher about how they can help looking after the children, on site, during the 2 hour strike.
All options have been blocked, we’re between a rock and a hard place. A couple of mothers were crying due to the shock of it all, they’re probably going to have to take a week off work . The school have also told us that if we don’t get the children back on time, it will be considered an unauthorised absence and it’ll be counted against us. A lot of people I know are worried sick but they’re in a difficult position…but we sympathise with what the TAs are doing
Her sons made some poignant comments:
My son, he’s nearly 5, and I’ve told him that next week we’ll being having lunch together every day…and he said ‘Why?’. I explained it was about money for the TAs, and he said ‘Why can’t they just give the teachers what they ask for?’ My oldest one doesn’t understand why, if the Council care about children so much, that they’re destroying it for us?
She also highlighted that the impact is not just with the parents, and staff striking in the City.
I have a friend in Social Care who has a child who’s going to be affected, so she won’t be available to do her job so it’s not just the children and the parents
Kelly Everton, also from Lakeside had similar concerns and experiences:
We were told that we’re not allowed to come into the school grounds. We did ask if we could watch them in the school hall, so they could stay there . We were told for insurance reasons we’re not allowed to do that.
I support the TAs and I feel that they shouldn’t be having their pay cut. The full day strike is easier for parents to cope with. But the strike in the middle of the day is a real problem. I will be calling Ranjit Banwait tomorrow. I’ve been told by the school if I don’t bring my daughter back in the afternoon that she’ll be marked down as absent….which will go against me. It feels like we are being penalised….and we shouldn’t be being punished if there is a problem and we can’t get the children back to school in the afternoon
A parent whose son goes to Ivy House, and who wanted to remain anonymous highlighted the serious nature of the work of the TAs there and the impact that the pay cuts will have on them:
A lot of the children are at medically complex schools like Ivy House, St Giles and St Andrews. These schools are made up of TA’s because they have lifelong skills. TA’s are almost nurses, they have skills to keep the children alive. More medically complicated children are coming through the system, due to intervention, which is great as they have a right to an education. 1 class has 6 children on suction machines, nebulisers, ventilators which take an awful lot of looking after by the TAs. Some can’t communicate that well either.
The care and empathy that is needed to do that lovingly, and properly, takes a special kind of person for those kind of children. Due to the conditions that the children have there is an ambulance at that school most days. They’re keeping the children alive, but they are also having so much fun and laughter as well….as the TAs are very competent. It’s breaking my heart!
Life with a severely disabled child isn’t easy, it’s hard, it’s isolating, particularly when they’re not at school. You’re in the house doing a lot of the toileting needs, care needs – its’ quite exhausting, but that’s fine because they’re our children, and we love them. And you know they’ll be able to go back to school and there’ll be light at the end of the tunnel and they’re going to enjoy their 5-6 hours and you’ll get a window between all of the hospital appointments, broken bones, and operations and chest infections.
When the Council are standing their ground and saying you WILL accept this, to the familes, they don’t realise that there is a knock-on effect to others, as well as the TAs – it’s heart-breaking to think somebody would do that to our families, our children, our school – it’s staggering, it’s awful – I don’t know what the words are. This Council have done nothing but cause us hassle, grief and upset to people who are doing a fantastic job.
One of the TAs had to leave Ivy House – she held on and held on and it was heartbreaking at the end of assembly at half-term….she’d been there 5 years……she was heart-broken ……she had to leave but she didn’t want to. I was gutted because she was amazing, she loved my son….and she’s gone! She’s gone to a shop …it paid better money as she had to pay the mortgage”
These 3 women told me that many other parents shared the same view. They’re prepared to put up with the disruption of the strike action to fight for a better future for they’re children. All of them were planning to contact Cllr Banwait.
After my initial interview with this parent she had a call from Cllr Banwait
She told me from the outset of the conversation she felt unnerved and threatened as he was insistent on knowing her exact address to confirm that she was a constituent. She just wanted to understand what he could do to make this situation better for the Teaching Support staff, the parents, and the children. She invited him to visit Ivy House so he could see for himself the good work of the TAs. It would seem that no Councillor, or member of the team responsible for the Pay review has visited. He responded by saying “ I don’t need to visit”.
He did nothing to make me feel better, and address the fact that I was upset. He was having nothing of it, he was spouting the law, and saying things I didn’t understand, and just winding me up….where’s his people skills?
He didn’t give me any confidence that I was being listened to, or that he cared – I felt intimidated. He could have calmed the situation by visiting Ivy House as requested.
He annoyed me by telling me ‘I was putting my son to bed, and I’ve gone out of my way to talk to you’. I felt like saying….I’ve got a son who can’t walk, talk, or see…how much time do you think I’ve got to talk to you…we had the call because of your actions – you caused it.
From my conversations these are not isolated examples. People are getting tired of being told that “it’s the law” when everyone knows full well that’s not true. The law element is about ensuring equal pay between genders, not about savagely reducing the pay of one section of the schools staff. The methodology by which it was implemented, and the incompetence by which it was done, is not enshrined in legislation.
A leader that consistently looks for faceless excuses to divert attention away from himself is not a leader. Someone who cannot empathise, and listen is not a leader. Someone that implements a change that robs nearly everyone of their dignity is not a leader. Someone who has to tell people that he is right – is not a leader.
This policy is destroying the lives of people who can help some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The strike action will start mobilising the parents in anger against the Council. If there is one time to start being a leader, it is now. A Leader can say sorry, a Leader can be strong enough to accept that they’ve done wrong, a Leader should only be focussed on one thing…and that is “Doing the Right Thing” for the people that they are leading. Now, is not too late!