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Deprived pupils will be worst hit

I write on behalf of the Sunderland secondary headteachers' group regarding our concerns about implementing the workforce reforms that were recently agreed between the Department for Education and Skills and the teacher unions.

While we are committed to the principle, we are finding it difficult to implement the agreement as we do not have the necessary resources or funding.

School budget allocations for 2003-4 have caused a lot of concern nationally. Despite our local education authority's policy of maximum delegation, secondary heads in Sunderland have struggled to maintain staffing levels this year.

We have been further dismayed by the DfES's decision to redesignate or withdraw a number of standards fund grants, particularly those aimed at social inclusion.

The withdrawal of these grants has meant a reduction in the level of support for our most needy pupils. In many schools this has resulted in a more challenging working environment for all.

We are concerned about the impact that any decisions to withdraw other grants next year and beyond may have on all pupils, but particularly our most troubled and disadvantaged.

With many colleagues facing challenging circumstances, we grow ever more worried about our ability to continue to deliver the high-quality provision and working conditions to which we are committed.

PM Marshall Sandhill View community learning centre Grindon Lane, Sunderland

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