A council which is making hundreds of school staff re-apply for their jobs has been told it should be “ashamed” and could be liable for legal action. All teachers and other staff at schools being reorganised in Rhondda Cynon Taf are having to re-apply for their jobs.
The council has confirmed a statutory consultation involving 294 staff at six schools is underway - they are Pontypridd High, Hawthorn High, Hawthorn Primary, Cilfynydd Primary, Ysgol Pontsionnorton and Heol y Celyn Primary. Two new schools for ages 3-16 and a new Welsh medium primary will be created in their place - you can read more details of that here.
Hitting out at what he said was “a disgraceful approach” Neil Butler, Wales secretary of the Nasuwt teachers’ union said: “RCT are engaged in a ‘fire and rehire’ process. This is a shoddy employment practice that should have no place in Wales. RCT have been caught out doing this before and frankly they should be ashamed of themselves."
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Mr Butler continued: “The Nasuwt will work hard to ensure that no member is detrimentally affected but they should not have to go through this unnecessary and stressful process.”
He added that the process could lave RCT open to legal action: "They (the council) are closing the school then reopening it. So if they (staff) are unsuccessful in attaining a place at the new school they will be dismissed. That way they can cherry pick and not re-employ those they don't like and hope to avoid unfair dismissal claims.
"The argument is of course that the school is different but, of course it is not. A school is a school - it may have a different intake because it's a merger. It's a disgraceful approach that we should not be seeing in Wales. It is also ultimately unsuccessful.
"We have a successful case of unfair dismissal in Wales over this where the courts saw through this sham. Elsewhere in Wales change management policy is used which directly protects employees from unfair dismissal."
The Nasuwt and Unison, which represents support staff, said they expect all those who want them to be offered jobs in the two new 3-16 schools replacing the high schools or the new Welsh language primary also opening under the re-organisation plans.
Unison said it is also concerned about pupils needing extra support. Unison Cymru education convenor Dean Price said: "One of the ongoing discussions around the future of Pontypridd High School, which would be common across all Rhondda Cynon Taf schools, is the increase in pupils presenting with complex additional learning needs, be it behavioural issues, issues with literacy, numeracy, emotional or mental health issues.
“Staff are saying how important it is to be able to spend time with these pupils and deliver the appropriate interventions and strategies to improve these pupils’ education and life. Sometimes there is a feeling that these situations are being managed rather than proactively addressed.
“One of the things being worked on as part of the consultation is around staff employed in roles focused on health and wellbeing and social and emotional roles and whether or not they have enough hours and if there is enough staff in these areas. Staff are very legitimately saying if you don’t give us the time, resources and numbers to do this then things are not going to improve. As part of the proposals, staff say they would like to see some changes or amendments in these areas.”
RCT’s cabinet agreed in July 2019 to formally confirm proposals to create new 3–16 all through schools in Hawthorn and Pontypridd and a new Welsh medium primary school - Heol y Celyn - in Rhydyfelin. Since then, the temporary governing bodies have appointed headteachers and the process of appointing all other staff is starting now, with all three schools due to open in September 2024.
The consultation is due to end on April 18 but it is understood that could be extended. Confirming the plans earlier this week a spokesperson for RCT council said: “As part of the council’s well-established Management of Change process, the vision for the new school and staffing structures have been shared with school staff, governing bodies and trade unions. The consultation process commenced on March 6 and will continue until April 18, 2023.
"This process will allow school staff the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals which will be given due consideration by the school leaders and the temporary governing bodies of the new schools. Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is committed to working in partnership with staff and trade union colleagues to avoid redundancies where ever possible to support our valued workforce.
"As a council we have an excellent track record of supporting staff and reducing any potential risks of job losses through our agreed processes such as voluntary applications and redeployment opportunities.”
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