You reported last week (TES, December 7) that the National Union of Teachers in the London borough of Southwark is asking teachers not to sign the Ark (Absolute Return for Kids) schools contract and suggests its terms are less favourable than those offered by local authority employers.
When the first Ark school opened in Hammersmith and Fulham, the initial contract sought to mirror the terms and conditions on which teachers were already employed save that, as we run a slightly longer than average school year, we offered a salary uplift to reflect this.
Over time, and in consultation with our staff, we want to establish terms that will compete with best practice in the sector. And as teachers transfer, we do not want them to do so on terms that they feel to be less attractive.
Since we have opened schools in other boroughs, it has become clear that maternity pay and leave is one of a few areas in which there is considerable local variance. This policy is therefore under active review and we would welcome the contribution of the staff unions to that review.
The Ark schools charity is committed to providing the conditions that enable us to attract the best teachers we can. This includes the terms of their employment, which is why the majority of teachers to whom the contract has been offered have been happy to sign it.
John Walker HR director, Ark Schools, London.