Downing Street insider Millar finds herself in opposition

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
Some of Labour's strongest supporters turned against the party this week over school funding.

Fiona Millar, partner of Tony Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell, who also acts as a Downing Street adviser, is chair of governors at her daughter's school in North London. This week it was revealed that she had written to parents and called on them to lobby ministers.

Gospel Oak primary, Camden, faces losing teachers and support staff as staff costs have risen by 20 per cent while its funding has risen by just 7 per cent.

In the letter, Ms Millar said: "We believe that the Government has not thought through the implications of all of its changes for some of the neediest schools, such as those in inner London."

The school's head, Alan Seymour, said: "She is very clear that she has two distinct roles, one as an adviser to Downing Street and one as a school governor, and when she's here she has to defend the school.

"Both myself and Fiona very much support the Government's education policy, but we think on this occasion a mistake has been made."

Another supporter of Labour's education policies has spoken out. Dame Jean Else is head of Whalley Range high school for girls, Manchester, alma mater of Estelle Morris, former education secretary. She said she had a budget deficit of pound;600,000 and would rather resign than see her good work at turning the school round undone.

She said: "If I was to make teaching cuts I would have to lose 20 staff, which would make it impossible for me to run the curriculum. It would also destroy what has been a successful school. I love this job, I love the kids and I love the school, so I won't be taking this decision lightly, but I would rather go myself than make any of my staff redundant."

And in Education Secretary Charles Clarke's backyard, Nick Butt, head of St Edmund's school in King's Lynn, Norfolk, has resigned. The school, in the adjoining constituency to Mr Clarke's, has a history of underfunding and this year has a deficit of almost pound;98,000.

Mr Butt had planned to go before the new shortfall was known, but now says he knows he made the right decision. He said: "The Government is highly inefficient in the way it distributes money and I have given up trying to make it change."

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