SCHOOLS across the country are facing shocking cuts this year as governing bodies struggle to meet the escalating cost of teachers' pay, headteachers will warn today.
The Secondary Heads' Association annual conference in Bournemouth will be dominated by budget concerns, while the union braces itself for the first industrial action in its history.
The spring conference season opens as ministers cast heads in the unlikely role of villains for ann-ouncing a nationwide ballot to boycott performance pay for experienced teachers.
John Dunford, SHAgeneral secretary, said that education minister Margaret Hodge, who was due to address the conference today, faced a worse ride than any minister in the union's 24-year history because of the strength of feeling over the under-funding of performance pay.
Concerns go wider than funding for merit money, the union warns. Many heads will claim this weekend that their overall budgets are being cut back, despite an above-inflation increase from the Government. Some will warn of redundancies.
Several heads, both primary and secondary, have already contacted The TES with similar forecasts and Tony Neal, SHA president, warned: "In real terms, large numbers of secondary schools are going to be worse off this year than last."
Schools in Nottinghamshire are facing at least 20 redundancies in the county as they struggle to meet the costs of teachers and support staff pay in the face of a budget increase of less than 5 per cent.
In Suffolk many schools are looking to "significantly reduce" the number of support staff, while others fear teaching redundancies.
And seven secondary heads in Darlington, in the constituencies of Tony Blair and Health Secretary Alan Milburn, have launched a campaign for extra cash in the face of only a 3.3 per cent budget increase which they claim will lead to cutbacks in school maintenance.
Councils' education budgets are being increased by 5.7 per cent on average, or pound;1.3bn, by the Government this year.
But teachers' employers claim that the Govenment has underfunded the cost of rising teachers' salaries by pound;560m. This difference has to be made up by councils, who then pass it on to schools.
The 5.7 per cent increase also includes standards fund spending, over which schools have little choice, say the employers. Across the country, schools are being left with only a 2 per cent increase, before inflation, they claim.
Schools in councils which have received an increase of less than 5.7 per cent, will be hardest hit and could face real term cuts.
Opposition education spokesmen Damian Green and Phil Willis will support the heads at the conference by calling for radical changes to the current performance pay scheme.
Shire protest, 28