SOME 100 people braved the rain today to protest for fairer pay for staff at a school in Branksome. 

Professional support staff at the Victoria Education Centre say they have been left with no option but to strike.

For more than 18 months, they have been demanding better pay from Livability, the charity that runs the SEND school on Lindsay Road in Poole.

Now, staff at the school are 'unhappy with being stuck on a £10.42 hourly wage'.

Bournemouth Echo:

Julia Rogers has worked at the centre for over 15 years.

The teaching assistant in her 50s is also a workplace steward for UNISON.

She said: “We've been negotiating for the last couple of years and we're still no further forward so unfortunately this is the last resort.

“We've ended up having to take industrial action.

“I'm a senior teaching assistant and I'm currently on £10.42 an hour.

“When we came out of COVID they decided to bring in one contract for everybody and on the back of that, we signed a grievance.

“I currently get twelve weeks full pay on sick, and twelve weeks half pay and that would have gone down to four weeks full pay and four weeks fast pay.

“We all signed a grievance, and a few of us refused to sign the new contract on the back of that they reinstated our terms and conditions and from that, we were able to get recognition with Unison.

“So, we've got a bargaining unit within the school.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Mike Cracknell, the UNISON regional organiser said: “We've got a situation where we have a very dedicated group of staff who are significantly underpaid for the work they do.

“We've seen banners on the picket line which depict that Sainsbury's and Aldi pay much more than these staff are getting.

The 59-year-old from Bournemouth added: “The job itself is something that they love to do, but they just feel that they've got to make a stand because they're just not being recognized for that dedication and support that they give to the students.

“Nobody on the picket line today wants to be here.

“They would much rather be working with their students because that is what they love doing.

“The best outcome for the members would be that management sit down and seriously negotiate a reasonable pay rise for these staff members, which is long overdue.”

The centre was rated as 'good' following an Ofsted inspection in 2019, at the time it had 94 'disabled and vulnerable' pupils on its roll 

Adele Audin, Livability Director for Education said: “We recognise the pivotal role our support staff play in providing exceptional care and education for our pupils.

"From the outset, we have put forward a pay offer that ensures staff are paid fairly, while also securing salaries in the future.

“Following the agreement of the NJC pay scales for 2023-24, published yesterday, we are working to finalise the last stage of the pay offer.

“We remain committed to continuing an open dialogue with Unison and have agreed to a further meeting on 14 November to try and reach a resolution.

“Our primary focus during this time is the children, young people and families that we support."

"We recognise the impact strike action will have and will continue to work to minimise disruption and to help our most vulnerable students and families."

Staff intend to strike again on November 29 between 8am and 12pm.