Falling rolls to hit hundreds of jobs

5th March 2004 at 00:00
TES survey shows ministers' funding guarantees will be met.

Jon Slater and Patrick Hayes report

Hundreds of teaching jobs will be lost this year as a result of funding cuts caused by falling pupil numbers, a TES survey reveals.

Schools in most of England's 150 local authorities will shed staff in 20045 despite ministers' efforts to soften the impact of shrinking rolls.

Unions attacked the Government for what they described as a missed opportunity to cut class sizes and reduce workload.

The survey of local authorities suggests ministers have largely succeeded in avoiding a repeat of last year's funding crisis and that most problems will concern schools affected by demographic changes. Primaries are expected to bear the brunt of the job cuts.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke promised last year that an extra pound;1.5 billion spending will mean all schools with static rolls will receive an increase of at least 4 per cent per pupil in 20045.

Schools with increasing numbers were guaranteed an increase of 3.4 per cent. Those with falling rolls and those hit hard by last year's crisis were promised additional help.

Forty-eight of the 51 councils who replied to the TES survey expect to deliver the guarantee. The others said it was too early to comment. The news should comfort the Department for Education and Skills which regards the situation as "fragile", especially as the general election is expected within 18 months.

Only two, the London borough of Islington and Bournemouth, said they expected job losses as a result of cuts. A further 21 authorities said it was too early to say.

Thirty of the 33 authorities who gave a definite answer said that some schools would have to cut teaching and support staff posts because of falling rolls. Cornwall, East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull and Devon are among the areas hardest hit. Up to 33 jobs could be lost in Cornwall with the other authorities expecting their schools to shed around 20 posts.

In Croydon, National Union of Teachers members and school support staff represented by Unison went on a half-day strike on Monday in protest at expected redundancies caused by funding shortages.

Kim Johnson, Isle of Wight assistant director of education, said more authorities could face problems after regrading support staff, an exercise prompted by the workload agreement. Schools would be faced by cost increases above the 3.4 per cent expected by ministers if support staff were given large increases, he said.

The survey was sent to all 150 LEAs in England. Official figures show the number of primary pupils will fall by 168,000 over the next three years.

Professor Alan Smithers, of Liverpool university, estimates that the drop in pupil numbers in primary and secondary schools could cost 50,000 teaching jobs by 2010.

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