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Capital puts emphasis on protection

A TES survey reveals that authorities of all types are trying to make education a top priority in an attempt to save teachers' jobs. But scores remain under threat. Rifat Malik reports.

London's local authorities have been grappling in this year's education budgets with the teachers' pay award, inflation and the rise in pupil numbers, writes Rifat Malik.

For eight of the 19 councils who responded to the TES survey, the outcome was a cut in their education budget in real terms, with another eight managing slight increases, and three remaining unchanged.

Just under half managed to increase their aggregated school budgets, and almost all the others are at least standing still although additional pupil numbers means the same money will need to be stretched further.

Three-quarters of local authorities contacted chose to fund the teachers' pay award in full, with more than half prioritising education.

Many councils were prepared to go up to the capping limit to do this though Haringey angered heads, governors and parents when it rejected their calls to add Pounds 20 to council-tax bills to fund education.

Philip Jones, chair of its education committee, said: "More and more parents and governors are beginning to realise there is a problem with delegated budgets, and although we are spending higher than the Government's Standard Spending Assessment, this reflects our need to raise achievement at all levels."

LEAs said it was too early to predict how schools would be affected by the budget settlement but at least half were optimistic that they have avoided job losses for teachers. However, staff are at risk in some boroughs - job losses are likely in Enfield, Hackney and Merton. In Haringey, however, a threat to 50 jobs appears to have been averted by the council finding Pounds 1 million in extra funding with the rest being taken from primary education.

Redundancies in education generally have been contained as almost three-quarters of the LEAs contacted do not envisage staff cuts, opting for either restructuring, or redeploying staff.

Special education seems largely unaffected by cuts, with councils such as Camden reorganising funding following a move towards integrating pupils into mainstream schools.

School meals were relatively unscathed, although pupils face price increases of 3 to 7 per cent in a third of the boroughs. Half the boroughs have made cuts in funds allocate for discretionary grants, youth work, and adult and community education. Of the 16 councils which still provide music teaching, almost three-quarters had not made any more cuts this year.

Central administration costs were being severely cut in some boroughs, particularly in Greenwich, Croydon and Waltham Forest, and almost 80 per cent of the councils responding said they would be making cuts in this area.

Other cuts threatened services such as curriculum support, building maintenance and child guidance.

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