Despair at Shephard's 'betrayal'

17th February 1995 at 00:00
Secondary headteachers claim that the Education Secretary's failure to fight their corner in the battle for funds was an act of betrayal which has left many schools in despair.

Faced with the prospect of swingeing budget cuts and rapidly diminishing reserves, the burden of finding the additional 2.7 per cent pay increase for staff from the school's resources has proved for many to be the final straw.

More than half the headteachers questioned in a telephone survey of 20 secondary schools in metropolitan boroughs and shire counties said they would have to fund part or all of the pay increase - often adding tens of thousands of pounds to their payroll.

Cuts in both teaching and support staff were now being discussed by governors in almost one-third of schools, most were looking at early retirement, voluntary redundancy, and non-renewal of temporary contracts - but a minority said compulsory redundancy could not be ruled out and just over one in three was also planning to cut spending on books, equipment and maintenance.

Pam Morris, head of Wells Blue School in Somerset, said it faced a prospective 8 per cent budget cut and a Pounds 150,000 shortfall. Up to four members of staff could be shed and the governors were considering the possiblity of setting a deficit budget.

A Gateshead headteacher who faced a six-figure deficit for the third consecutive year said: "I am prepared to be civilly disobedient about this because the rights of my kids are being denied as a result of social and political policy which I resent."

Though the majority of schools had lobbied their MPs and urged parents to write to councillors several heads confessed they felt impotent.

A Dorset headteacher said: "We have done this so many times before to no effect, we are just going through the motions. There is a sense of war-weariness about the whole thing."

A significant minority of heads believed the Treasury's refusal to fund the award was another attempt to force schools into opting out to secure better funding - though eight out of ten ruled out such a step.

But the head of a Berkshire school facing the prospect of a Pounds 100, 000 budget cut said: "If things get worse we would look at going for CTC status and opting out. It sends a shiver down my spine to be forced down this route. "

None of the schools contacted by The TES had yet received their final budgets, but the majority had drawn up indicative figures - eight out of ten estimated they faced cuts of between Pounds 29,000 and Pounds 200, 000.

Just under two-thirds held surpluses - ranging from several thousand pounds to Pounds 100,000 - most had a carry-over of between Pounds 20-Pounds 40,000 which they intended to use to cushion the school against the worst effects of the cutbacks.

The regional trends were reflected in London where more than half of the nine headteachers questioned said they would need to fund or part-fund the pay award from within the school's resources.

Some 45 per cent believed they would need to cut staff but everyone planned to use their reserves - in part or as a whole to cushion the school against the worst effects of the cuts. Many (44 per cent) held reserves of between Pounds 40,000 and Pounds 50,000. One-third held more than Pounds 100,000.

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