SOUTHAMPTON’S education boss claims that a planned strike by school staff over redundancies “seems unnecessary” as no job losses are planned.

Councillor Darren Paffey said that the walk-out by National Education Union members at Valentine Primary School will “clearly disrupt” the learning of the city’s schoolchildren.

A city council spokesperson added that “the school governors have confirmed there are in fact no planned redundancies, and the NEU is aware of this”.

However, the NEU claims that the council is being “disingenuous” and the need to eliminate a budget deficit of £900,000 over a five year period “represents a threat to jobs” at the school, even if losses are not currently tabled. The comments were made after it was revealed that staff are planning to strike over the threat of redundancies and increased workload, with the first taking place tomorrow.

More than 30 staff and parents are predicted to protest outside the Civic Centre at 9am. As reported, in a ballot of members of the National Education Union, 100 per cent voted for the action on a turnout of 75 per cent. The NEU has also said that it plans to walk out for two days the next week and three the week after that if plans are not scrapped. But Cllr Paffey has aired his frustration at the strike action.

He said: “My priority is ensuring that children in this city’s schools are getting the best education possible, and the NEU’s strike will clearly disrupt that.

“We have given lots of support to raise standards at Valentine Primary School as well as specialist support with their finances.

“It is regrettable that the NEU representatives are ignoring this and rushing into strike action before the next meeting we had all agreed to; I am advised that there are no planned redundancies, so this strike seems unnecessary.

“The Minimum Funding Guarantee is supported nationally by the majority of head teachers and ensures that schools are protected from sudden changes to funding, so the school cannot ‘lose’ funds it was never allocated. It is deeply unfair for the NEU representatives to demand that Southampton head teachers now remove that guarantee and take away money from other schools to give to this one.”

He added: “We believe that there isn’t enough national investment in education, and we should all be working together to lobby government to do more.

“Unfortunately, the NEU representatives’ demands of the council – which has suffered far deeper cuts to our budget than any school – are not realistic, and are based on wholly inaccurate information about how schools are funded.

“I hope that the NEU will instead work with us to lobby government for the good of all Southampton’s schools many of whom are also facing tough financial situations.”