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Staff at closing choir school call in ACAS

03 August 2012


TEACHERS at Ripon Cathedral Choir School have asked ACAS to step in after they failed to reach a deal on back pay and redundancy.

The school announced its closure last week after a plan to resolve its financial difficulties by amalgamating with a neighbouring independent school collapsed (News, 27 July).

In a statement, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which has 14 members among the school's 29 staff, said that governors had "refused" to negotiate with them.

ATL's Yorkshire regional official, Angela Montgomery, said: "ATL is very concerned about the fate of the staff. At this traumatic time, staff want ATL to represent them in negotiations over redundancy, but the governing body has refused to allow this.

"Staff are deeply frustrated by their employer's failure to let them know what is going on; its refusal to negotiate collectively with their chosen trade union, and its failure to take timely action to save the school. And now the staff feel they are being harassed and intimidated by the school.

"ATL is determined to make sure all 14 staff members at the school get any pay and redundancy payments to which they are entitled, and has called in ACAS to facilitate this. If necessary, ATL will take the school to an employment tribunal to make the school fulfil its obligations to its staff."

In a statement released on Wednesday, the school said that the governors were negotiating the terms of the potential redundancies. "This includes consulting with them about ways of avoiding, reducing and/or mitigating the effects of any redundancies. The governors can confirm that due process has been followed as set out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

"The governors can also confirm that staff will receive their pay and redundancy entitlement, and further meetings with the staff have been scheduled during the course of the next week.

"Whilst the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have requested to negotiate the terms of redundancy, the governors have agreed for ATL to accompany any affected member of staff in their individual meetings should the member of staff so wish. The governors have also offered to meet with the ATL representative to understand their concerns, which invitation has to date been declined.

"The governors can confirm the school will therefore fulfil its obligations to staff, [and] are mindful of the difficult period staff are going."

The closure was announced last week after proposals to merge with Cundall Manor School, eight miles away, fell through.

Ripon Cathedral Choir School owed more than £600,000 in debts, much of it in loans from the cathedral. It is understood that the school faced projected losses of more than £40,000 a month from the start of the autumn term.

The Dean and Chapter of the cathedral, however, said that the choir would be maintained by a "remodelling" of the 1000-year-old choral foundation, with 24 boy and 24 girl choristers.

The opportunity to join the choir would be open to pupils from any school in the Ripon area. The six existing professional lay clerks would remain, and the director of music, Andrew Bryden, and his assistant would continue to manage and direct the choir.

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Revd Keith Jukes, who was also a governor of the school, said: "This fresh vision enables us to build on and, indeed, improve the cathedral's standing as a centre of choral excellence".


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