Books sacrificed for staff

Tes Editorial

Spending on books, repairs and equipment is being sacrificed to save teachers' jobs, Alan Smithers' research reveals.

Almost half of primaries and secondaries were having to spend more on teachers this year, with similar numbers planning to draw on reserves to make up their budgetary shortfall.

"This tends to support the Government's contention that there are balances in the system available to be used to meet the salary award, but those balances can only be used once, and it is probable that some schools at least were accumulating them towards specific purposes which will have to be shelved, " said the survey.

One primary headteacher in the North-west of England told researchers: "As this authority is cutting budgets, I can see no other options except to use our reserves. Once they have been used up, schools - especially small ones - will be forced into closure. Then there will be more lost posts."

Using reserves was only a partial solution, judging by other cuts planned by schools. Around 20 per cent of primaries and 40 per cent of secondaries were increasing the pupil:teacher ratio (PTR), reducing non-contact time and appointing cheaper teachers to make savings, with more expecting to increase the PTR next year. Grant-maintained schools were less likely to have made such savings this year, but a quarter had raised the PTR, and 40 per cent expected to next year.

One 11-18 comprehensive in the North-westof England wrote: "We shall be drawing on our reserves, the little that is left of them, increasing the pupil:teacher ratio and appointing cheaper staff.

"We are encouraging staff over 50 to take early retirement . . . we are also reducing the number of allowances paid. It will probably accelerate next year with the cuts, but a high proportion of vacancies will not be filled. After next year, LMS is not going to be about better management of schools but about cheaper education."

More dramatic cuts are anticipated in other areas. Primary schools expect to spend a third less on books this year, cutting spending by a further half in 1994-95. Equipment spending will be cut by 38 per cent this year, and a further 55 per cent the following year. Similar economies are expected in the building, development and repairs budgets. Secondary schools predicted similar savings, albeit with smaller cuts in the 1995-96 books budget offset by less money to spend on repairs.

Problems of crumbling schools seem likely to worsen, as almost 60 per cent of primaries and secondaries were anticipating cutting spending on building next year, while just over half of primaries and 55 per cent of secondaries were expecting to cut costs on repairs.

A further economy being made next year is a cut of almost a quarter in spending on technicians. One in four schools also was recruiting more temporary staff, usually to maintain flexibility.

Copies of "Affording Teachers" are available from the Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Manchester for Pounds 10 including p and p.

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