Unison Press Release
Conway School Plumstead
Conway Primary School set to cut eight Teaching Assistants while continuing to employ employ "Maths Consultant" married to the headteacher at enormous additional cost to the School.
The school and headteacher Yalini Carlsson-Ruben are committed to taking an axe to teaching assistant posts at the School while ring-fencing the school's use of external learning consultants, an arrangement from which Mrs Carlsson-Ruben ultimately benefits. Her husband John Carlsson-Overy is retained by the school as an external "maths consultant" through a contract with Digon Consultancy Ltd, a company which according to Companies House records, he is the sole director of. Ms Carlsson-Ruben is herself a maths specialist by background.
The School has already paid the headteacher's husband's company £133,250 between 22nd May 2012, when the company was established, and November 2015 when a Freedom of Information Request by Greenwich Unison (attached) established the scale of the payments.
The sole director and beneficiary of Digon Consultancy is Stephen John Carlsson-Overy, the headteacher's husband. There are continuing contracts between the School and Mr Carlsson-Overy. The School has apparently been spending some £40,000 a year for Mr Carlsson-Overy to act as a consultant to supplement the way in which it teaches core skills. As Digon Consultancy does not appear to have any overheads or other employees, the money taken out of the company is simply income for the headteacher's husband. The school has said as part of its freedom of information disclosure that the headteacher notified the governors of her personal interest at all times and played no part in the decision to retain her husband, which was made by the governors in line with the local authorities approved procedure.
The planned cuts to the learning support staff will leave the School with a ratio of only one Teaching Assistant to every 45 pupils at the School, a ratio which is significantly out of line with similar Royal Greenwich Primary Schools. Many classes risk being left with no Teaching Assistant support whatsoever.
Greenwich Unison recognises the value of Educational Consultants whose interventions bring additional expertise and new ideas into schools. We also recognise the vital role they can play in training. However we do not know of any other School which has employed the same consultant on an ongoing basis over several years at a cost of well over one hundred thousand pounds, let alone one who is married to the Headteacher.
In a letter to Parents (attached) Mrs Carlsson-Ruban has defended the use of consultants, saying that they have successfully raised standards at the school. However the head's letter does not reveal the enormous scale of the payments to her husband's firm over that time or disclose how closely interested she has been with the arrangement. The improvement in results which the head points to was achieved during a period in which there was a ratio of 1 Teaching Assistant to every 25 pupils. The school now plans to reduce that ratio to 1 to 45.
Greenwich Unison has tried to engage positively with the School to find alternative ways to reduce costs, without leaving pupils at the School with the support of fewer teaching assistants.
We have however been met with intransigence, with the School making no changes whatsoever to the original proposed redundancies. Our proposals to cut the use of consultants was dismissed.
Greenwich Unison is reluctantly consulting with members on taking Industrial Action at the School something that we view, very much as a last resort but, we believe we are being forced to consider in order to protect pupils education against the loss of vital teaching assistants.
It is not too late. We urge the School Governors, even at this late stage to withdraw these flawed and harmful proposals and engage positively with the staff and unions to find a way forward to protect the education of the children in their care. We also call on Mr Stephen Piper, the Chair of Governors to resign for allowing this appalling state of affairs and preference for external consultants over teaching assistant staffing levels to develop.
We also urge the Royal Borough of Greenwich to re-examine how a state of affairs has developed in which one of its schools continues to pay significant sums to the husband of the headteacher as a consultant while low paid, essential staff who support teaching and learning day in day out are being dispensed with.
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