Union claims 'victory' over troubled AET academy chain

GMB says Academies Enterprise Trust has 'listened to sense' in staffing cuts dispute

Mark Smulian


The GMB trade union has claimed a “small victory” in its dispute with Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) over staff cuts.

It said AET – one of the country’s largest academy trusts with around 60 schools – had told staff it would provide some financial information about its proposed cuts and reconsider the planned restructuring of London academies.

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Earlier this month, the GMB said AET had “proposed drastic cuts to school support staff, without providing any meaningful information to support the proposals”, including to human resources and finance functions.

But AET has now written to staff to say it would be "looking again at the proposed restructures within our London academies" and that "the proposals previously communicated will not be proceeding”.

GMB regional organiser Gordon White said: "We are delighted that Academies Enterprise Trust are showing some signs of listening to sense. We will be more than happy to work with the London academies to ensure that any changes are properly considered and justified.”

He added: "Perhaps Academies Enterprise Trust will now listen to staff, teachers and their own local school management teams to actually work in the best interests of the children.”

An AET spokesperson said: “The organisation was in a bad way a couple of years ago, and as a result everything bar the name above the door has changed – leadership, governance, educational improvement and finances.

“The vast majority of the restructuring that was needed has now been completed, with the number of voluntary redundancies exceeding compulsory redundancies.”

AET said it would look again at how best to achieve some further changes needed at its London secondary schools.

It said some areas of dispute with the unions “have been blown out of proportion”, but “AET will always do what is in the best interests of our pupils and the organisation". "This isn’t about ‘victories’, but about doing the right thing,” they said.

Relations have also been strained over pay – with the union pointing out that AET chief executive Julian Drinkall has a salary of between £290,000 and £295,000 – despite just 52 per cent of eligible teachers achieving pay progression; and by the outsourcing of ICT.

Trade unions have launched a survey of staff to ask if they have confidence in AET’s leadership. This is still in progress.

MPs have challenged the government to disclose details of the £16.1 million bailout agreed for AET by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

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Mark Smulian

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