Experienced teachers set to be first victims of post-election cuts

23rd April 2010 at 01:00
Schools decide they can't afford 'expense' of retaining senior staff

As advanced skills teachers (ASTs), Rosemary Cairns and Heather Siebenaller have dedicated years to improving The Ridgeway School, near Swindon.

But the pair have been given what they say is the "incredibly unfair" news that they face redundancy because of "financial constraints". And they fear their situation is part of a growing trend to axe experienced staff to save money.

The teachers, who both earn #163;50,000-plus and make up a quarter of the school's leadership team, have been told their roles will go at the end of term even though funding is believed to be secure until next March.

The pair are furious that they have helped the school to gain an "outstanding" Ofsted ranking, only to be told their jobs will go.

Ms Cairns, 55, who has worked at the school for 25 years and is its training manager and a food, textiles, health and social care teacher, said: "There is a worrying trend here. Through sheer hard work we have reached the role of AST and played a part in improving the school and the staff and raising it to 'outstanding' status, but we would be offered more support if we were failing teachers."

Ms Siebenaller, 43, who says she works from 7.30am until midnight overseeing a variety of school initiatives alongside a packed timetable, added: "We feel we've really out-priced ourselves. If we were mediocre, we would still be here.

"It is not a good message to young staff. On all levels we try so hard to do things, it seems incredibly unfair. I can't believe it. It's going to be very difficult to find another post."

A spokeswoman for The Ridgeway said she was unable to comment on any specific case, but added: "We are in no different position from many other schools in the area, or indeed nationally, where the situation can be very fluid as budgets increase or decrease and grant monies are agreed or declined."

Unions and commentators have warned that increasing numbers of experienced staff could become vulnerable as education funding is squeezed. Falling pupil numbers in some areas and total school budget deficits of #163;139 million are also forcing schools to make tough staffing decisions.

The trend is expected across the whole public sector. An analysis by The Sunday Times this week revealed more than 225,000 job cuts are being "quietly forced through" by local authorities.

Professor John Howson, managing director of recruitment analysts Education Data Surveys, said financial difficulties would force schools to choose between axing one or two senior jobs, or several more lowly roles.

"Luxury" posts such as an AST, which attracts a salary of up to #163;62,596 in inner London, could be easier to cut than other senior posts such as head of department, he said.

Posts that attract teaching and learning responsibility payments, for example a head of subject within a "combined" department such as humanities, could also go, he said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union the NASUWT, said: "I'm not surprised it is the trend for older, more experienced teachers to be targeted. It's bad news for standards as you need a balance between new teachers and experienced people."


Job cuts are emerging around the country, although redundancies are being made for a variety of reasons.

St Neots Community College in Cambridgeshire announced it was cutting 11 teaching posts and four teaching assistants because of falling rolls. In Liverpool, budget constraints have been blamed for plans to cut four teachers at Roscoe Primary.

Job losses are also expected at the Business Academy Bexley because of a deficit of #163;500,000, exacerbated by expensive repairs to its #163;31 million Norman Foster-designed building.

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