As the schools who opted to becomegrant-maintained prepare to bow out, Clare Dean and Frances Rafferty report on the results of a major TES survey into the anxieties of attitudes of those who voted for self-governance
FACED with imminent abolotion of its sector loss of money is what worries grant-maintained secondary schools most.
They believe cash will be wasted by local education authorities, who have been told by the Government that they must delegate an extra pound;1 billion to all schools from this month.
Despite the push towards greater delegation - part of the new Fair Funding regime designed to equalise the funding of GM and LEA schools - councils will retain money for services such as transport and school improvement.
GM heads claim this enables council officers to hoard cash that should be going into schools. They are now looking at average cuts of 5 per cent, and, in the worst case, of up to 15 per cent.
Nine out of 10 GMsecondary schools responding to The TES survey said their budgets had been cut. The average for the 185 schools who revealed how much they had lost was pound;123,809 - pound;22.4 million in total. If the average were replicated across the 668 GM secondaries nationally, the figure would be pound;82.7 m.
A total of 380 teachers and 159 support staff will be lost, according to the secondary replies.
An Essex secondary, which turned GM six years ago and which is now facing a pound;128,000 cut, said it had received less than last year - yet had to fund the 3.5 per cent pay rise for teachers and 33 extra pupils.
"We are efficient and have tight control of our budgets," said the head. "After our budget cuts, class sizes will go up again as staff cannot be replaced, buildings will fall into disrepair and resources will have to be cut severely."
The head of a Leicestershire high school said his budget had not increased - even to cover the 3.5 per cent pay rise.
While the head of a Kent secondary said: "The budget situation is dire. I have cut to the bone and must still find another pound;200,000 from the staffing budget. I already have one volunteer for redundancy. I must hope several teachers get new jobs elsewhere. They will not be replaced. Where is the pound;19 billion that Blunkett and Blair talk about?" Better facilities were the most commonly-cited benefit of opting out for secondaries. Heads also said financial freedom had enabled them to achieve value for money.
And the head of a Warwickshire secondary, said: "GM in Warwickshire has been a wonderful success. All of the eight secondaries and many of the primaries have improved out of all recognition.
"Seven of the eight have improved exam results and are heavily oversubscribed. This improvement is now under threat."
SIX out of the 11 special school heads responding to the survey expect recriminations against both themselves and their schools when the opted-out sector is scrapped.
Their pessimism is much greater than that of primaries - where less than a quarter expect hostility - and of secondaries - only 15 per cent are predicting recriminations .
Special school heads said they felt isolated and complained that budgets had been cut.
A London special school, which is going for foundation status, is looking at a loss of pound;120,000.
Its head, who will lose three teachers and three other staff, asked: "How does an authority that has been given a 5.5 per cent increase in its standard spending assessment end up making a 3 per cent cut in its schools budgets?" Eight of special schools had their budgets cut. For the five who detailed the amounts, the total was pound;464,000 or an average of pound;92,800. If the average were replicated across the 20 GM special schools nationally, it would mean total cuts of pound;1.8 million.
Seven said they would have to lose staff - a total 10 teachers and 11 support staff. Their greatest fear is losing autonomy and they want councils to delegate more cash.
GOVERNORS at a Gloucestershire primary which is seeking foundation status are quitting, rather than work under the new regime.
The school's head fears abolition of the opted-out sector is a retrograde step. He said that without the grant to reduce class sizes to meet Labour's manifesto pledge his school would have had to lose staff.
Opting out enabled the school to take on extra classroom assistants, buy computers and put up new buildings.
"I wish to maintain our autonomy although we welcome advice and the chance to buy back some services," he said. "But I fear interference, a reduced budget and no longer being able to plan to suit the school. Governors are leaving as they do no wish the changed status."
The TES survey, to which 255 primary schools responded, reveals that they are shouldering the burden of the cuts. The average percentage cut from their budgets is 7 per cent - 2 per cent higher than that for secondaries.
Primaries are looking at average cuts of pound;35,769 and are expecting to lose a total 106 teachers and 153 support staff. Just 118 of the primaries in the survey revealed the amount they are losing. If their average was replicated across the 511 GM primaries, the figure would be pound;18.2 m.
The head of a Hertfordshire primary, going for foundation status, has written to Education Secretary David Blunkett out of a "sense of deep despair".
"I am now in the process of losing almost our entire support team because the grant that we will receive from April 1999 will not support their employment," he said in the letter, passed on to The TES.
"I have stripped everything possible from our budget. I do not even have a deputy head. How can I tell the children that they can no longer have the help they need?" he asked.
Heads used GM status to cut class sizes, improve buildings and offer more training, all of which they said raised morale and achievement.
With abolition looming, their greatest fear is of political interference and their priority is that they retain their independence. Money comes last.