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Congestion fee forces teachers to quit jobs

The new traffic charges in inner London are already hitting schools. Michael Shaw reports.

TEACHERS facing congestion charges which start in London next month are quitting their jobs, while parents are planning to move children from city centre schools.

Headteachers in Lambeth and Southwark, with 23 schools inside the zone, fear the problems will escalate because many families are still unaware of the impending pound;5-a-day toll.

Jeanne Carbine, head of Walnut Tree Walk primary in Lambeth, said more than 30 parents were considering sending their children to other schools to avoid the pound;1,200 a year fee.

Teacher Taw Stagg says she will be forced to leave unless the school pays her congestion charge.

The 26-year-old claimed public transport from her home in Battersea to the school - half an hour's drive away - was poor.

"I'm only in my second year teaching, so it would be financially impossible for me to pay nearly a month's salary just to get to and from school," she said.

"I've got to drive because the public transport in Battersea is diabolical, there's always a lot to carry, and this is not a job where you can turn up late."

Schools which have already lost teachers include Ethelred nursery in Lambeth, and Notre Dame catholic girls' school in Southwark.

Notre Dame headteacher Sister Anne-Marie Niblock blamed the congestion charge for a 15 per cent drop in the number of pupils enrolled at the school from September.

London schools commissioner Professor Tim Brighouse has urged the School Teachers' Review Body, which advises ministers on teacher pay, to take congestion charges into account when it reports this month.

Headteachers have written to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, asking him to consider giving parents and teachers the same 90 per cent discount available to zone residents.

However, a spokesman for Transport for London said such a change would not be legally possible.

Schools can register minibuses, or other vehicles with nine seats or more, for exemption from the charge on the website.

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