School protesters claim pupils of Purbrook ‘stole’ placards

Protesters outside Pubrook Park School Picture: Sheena Matthams

A UNION fighting to protect jobs at a Purbrook school has accused pupils of stealing protesters’ placards with the headteacher’s consent.

GMB members have been demonstrating outside Purbrook Park School after the school announced five non-teaching staff would be made redundant in January.

Purbrook Park School. Picture: Google Maps

During a protest last Thursday morning, the union claimed pupils came from outside the building and took GMB flags and placards.

These were allegedly taken inside the school and the gates locked, while headteacher Paul Foxley watched and ‘did not try to stop’ the pupils.

But Mr Foxley has strongly refuted these claims and said as soon as staff were aware the placards were in the school, they returned them.

GMB Southern officer Nicola Nixon called the school’s actions ‘deplorable’.

Parents should be concerned about this sort of behaviour seemingly being endorsed by the school.

GMB Southern officer Nicola Nixon

She said: ‘We have a right to peacefully protest and we do not expect this kind of behaviour being endorsed by a headteacher.

‘Our protest is to raise our issues with parents and the local community and not to disrupt the education of pupils.

‘This would have been an ideal opportunity for the pupils to have been taught about protest and freedom of speech. It is disappointing the school have not taken this opportunity.

‘Parents should be concerned about this sort of behaviour seemingly being endorsed by the school.’

Protestors outside the school. Picture: Sheena Matthams

The union claimed the job cuts are ‘unfair’, while the school previously said the redundancies would not affect the level of teaching.

The staff under threat are believed to be involved with the school’s minibus service.

Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said officers were called to the school at 8.36am on Thursday with reports of theft of placards and banners. He said the matter had ‘been resolved’ when officers arrived.

Mr Foxley, said: ‘I would like to point out the police did not agree there was any theft or intent of theft of the GMB’s materials and that is why they took no further action.

(l to r) Barry Beaven, Nichola Nixon and Carole Vallelly. Picture : Habibur Rahman

‘I would also strongly refute any claim that I encouraged pupils to collect any GMB property. As soon as it came to my attention that children had brought some of the GMB’s flags and placards in to school, we gathered up every item and immediately returned them to the GMB members who were outside of the school.

He added: ‘Purbrook Park is a happy and friendly school. It is true that I am restructuring our back office support and that this affects a small number of non-teaching staff.

‘In this, I have been working with both Hampshire County Council and the GMB Union to ensure that all due procedures are followed and the redundancy process is fair.

‘It has been a difficult decision but, ultimately, my aim is to ensure that our financial resources are prioritised for investing in the education of pupils at our wonderful school.

‘I want to reassure all parents and everyone in our community the restructure will have no adverse impact at all on the children and their education.’

More from Our region