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Cold comfort in hard times

Charles Clarke can take little comfort from the findings of our redundancy survey. The numbers of teachers dismissed are relatively small, compared with some estimates. But that is because the employment laws make it difficult to use redundancy as a short-term economy measure. By the time schools get their final budgets confirmed, staff cannot be shed until December, saving only a few months' salary in this year's budget.

Instead, as the recruitment indicators show, many schools have not replaced staff who are leaving - regardless of the impact on the curriculum, class sizes or teaching hours. Many of the redundancies were due to falling pupil numbers. But that is no comfort either since the workload agreement ought to have meant increasing demand for teachers, particularly in primary schools where staff need to be provided with 10 per cent non-contact time.

Even the classroom assistants who were supposed to make this possible are being laid off.

Nor does any of this bode well for future recruitment. Many of those contemplating training will now think again. For those made redundant, this will seem the final straw. Many will look elsewhere for their next job - or to early retirement.

Even those escaping redundancy feel demoralised. In spite of all their efforts to raise standards, they now find that their reward is to find their jobs can be put on the line by incompetence at the department urging them to work even harder and Mr Clarke's refusal to take heads' warnings seriously. None of which commends the Education Secretary's penchant for centralising school funding.

It is too late now to avoid the consequences this year. Even if additional money is conjured up, schools will not be able to make satisfactory appointments after the mid-term deadline for resignations.

Next year, with many schools in deficit and even more money redistributed away from the areas hardest hit, the situation will get even worse unless the Government comes up with a lot more money.

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