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Falling rolls bring job cuts of 1,500

Survey shows fewer redundancies expected this year. Michael Shaw and Patrick Hayes report

More than 1,500 teachers and school staff face redundancy this year because of falling pupil numbers, a survey of local authorities suggests.

The TES contacted 50 of the 150 education authorities and found that they had issued 518 notices this term to make teachers and school staff redundant.

Local authorities said the number of notices was lower than in previous years.

LEAs also tend to significantly overestimate the numbers they need to make redundant.

Councils said that falling school rolls were the chief reason for the planned job cuts and stressed that the vast majority of staff would not face compulsory redundancy.

However, a survey of headteachers (p4) found that a third have not received the Government's promised budget increase.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he was angry that schools were planning job cuts when more staff were needed to lighten teachers' workloads.

"Falling rolls is an opportunity, not a problem," he said. "It is an opportunity to ensure that pupils are taught by qualified teachers and to prepare for the 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment time due in 2005.

"Any redundancies are caused by the failure of the Government to provide sufficient funds. They are letting our children down."

Graham Lane, Local Government Association education chairman, said the survey suggested ministers had succeeded in averting the funding crisis which had hit schools last year.

Three-fifths of the authorities surveyed said they had not issued any redundancy notices yet.

Staffordshire is planning to make the largest number of redundancies. A letter obtained by local teachers indicated that the authority was aiming to cut 146 school staff.

But the council said it had issued 107 notices, and 10 of them had been withdrawn.

A council spokesman said that falling rolls were the main cause and that schools in the authority tended to overestimate the job cuts needed.

"It's a best guess, really," he said. "Schools decide on the numbers before they know what their budgets will be and often realise afterwards that they can afford a few more staff than they thought."

Other authorities with high numbers of redundancies planned include Stoke-on-Trent with 52 and Norfolk with 49.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said its own survey last year suggested that authorities issued 1,526 notices but only made 537 staff redundant. In Norfolk, where 12 redundancies were announced only one teacher was reported to have lost their job.

Primary schools are still having problems recruiting new heads, this week's TES advertisements show. John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and director of Education Data Surveys, said the high number of vacancies was due to a "retirement bulge" of heads leaving the profession.

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