Today was the start of the lunchtime strikes by the Teaching Assistants and School Support staff. This left many parents, especially those with severely disabled children, in a real practical dilemma. The 24/7 job of looking after their children leaves them tired, lifeless, exhausted, and frustrated, as a result of a constant logistical battle as they balance school, work commitments, health care, and the unpredictable nature of their child. Every need is a challenge for them. Having support removed at lunchtime is almost the last straw; the time at school is their respite not because they are just in someone else’s hands but that they are with someone who they personally trust.
Despite this massive inconvenience of the strike, they wholeheartedly support the plight of the Teaching Assistants because they know that many of the entrusted staff will have to leave their job as their finances are now becoming untenable. And although it was a struggle that they could do without, a number of parents, together with their children, joined forces and went to the Council Offices, today, to protest. For them all, they felt awkward – they’re not natural campaigners, they didn’t feel totally happy in parading their children in the Council Offices but they felt they needed to do it.
They feel that no one is listening to them. They feel that their concerns are being dismissed, and discarded and their annoyance is focussed on Cllr Banwait.
Cllr Ruth Skelton was passing through reception as the parents were gathering. Although it transpired that Banwait was unavailable, The Mayoress, Cllr Linda Winter did spend time with the parents, and listened to their concerns. Cllr Sara Bolton was also passing through reception and joined the group.
Both Cllrs expressed empathy with the parents, which was very helpful in the situation, and agreed to go away and try and get answers to the their concerns. I took the opportunity to highlight to both of them that the response should avoid the style and tone of the existing rhetoric of Cllr Banwait which a number of parents had found unhelpful, and patronising.
Everyone waits with interest as to what the feedback will be. The Parents will be returning in larger numbers later in the week….they are looking for a creative, satisfactory solution and not platitudes.