Nearly 40 teachers have been told their jobs are "surplus to requirement" at schools for British services' children in Germany.
Staff at the five secondary schools serving army and Royal Air Force personnel received letters last week saying they would not be needed after August 31. But at the same time adverts for 16 jobs were placed by the Service Children's Schools (North-west Europe), a defence agency in charge of education for the declining British garrison.
Eamonn O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the letters were sent after compulsory redundancy notices were written, but then withdrawn after legal advice that only the Ministry of Defence, not the agency, could issue such notices. He said that any jobs losses should be voluntary.
Mr O'Kane said: "The situation has been mishandled. They panicked because they are not used to dealing with the proper personnel."
SCS chief executive Ian Mitchelson denied any legal problems and insisted that job losses will not exceed 20, less than 1 per cent of the agency's 650 teachers. "What went out last week were 39 letters warning teachers that by August 31 they could be surplus to requirement. They were not technically redundancy notices. By alerting certain teachers to the problem, they had a chance to compete in the UK recruitment cycle before opportunities (for next year) disappeared."
He said staff had been told beforehand of the advertisements for 16 posts, necessary to correct discrepancies in teacher specialisms and grades. Existing SCS teachers would be able to apply for the jobs before outside applicants are considered, he said.