Funding shortfall puts jobs at risk

18th April 2003 at 01:00
'I'm still hoping that somebody somewhere will realise a big mistake has been made'. Jon Slater reports on head's fears

TEACHERS at the school where Prime Minister Tony Blair launched his 2001 election campaign are the latest victims of the funding shortfall which has left thousands of staff across England facing redundancy.

A deficit of more than pound;300,000 at St Saviour's and St Olave's in Southwark, south London, will force head Irene Bishop to lay off five staff on short-term contracts.

Mrs Bishop, who welcomed Mr Blair two years ago for the campaign launch, says she still faces a deficit of pound;200,000 this year despite losing one in 10 of her 50 teachers.

She has written to Stephen Twigg, junior education minister, to tell him she cannot afford the pay award for inner-London teachers, but is determined that the problems will not detract from a visit next month by the Queen to mark the school's centenary.

"I am still hoping that somebody somewhere will realise that a big mistake has been made. What really annoys me is that they seem to be blaming headteachers," she said.

The school is one of many for whom increases in salary, pension and national insurance costs are outstripping rises in funding.

Westminster heads have written to parents saying they will be "unable to provide effective full-time education". Elizabeth Phillips, head at St Marylebone school, is reported to be appealing for parents to donate pound;100 each in a bid to avoid shedding six of the school's 70 teachers. In Norfolk, Nick Butt, head of St Edmund's primary in King's Lynn, is quitting in protest at cuts, according to local reports.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers this week joined heads in threatening to pull out of the agreement to cut teachers' workload if cuts mean schools cannot implement it properly.

In a change of tack, the Government appeared to switch the blame from heads to local authorities. Speaking at the ATL conference, schools minister David Miliband admitted that schools faced rising costs but blamed education authorities for not passing on money to schools and suggested that some may have distributed it unfairly.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that while that may be the case in some areas, early indications from a SHA survey show that some councils do not have enough money to go around.

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, accused Labour of "buck-passing" by failing to give schools extra money in last week's budget.

Damian Green, shadow education secretary, accused ministers of "incompetence and double dealing". "The workload agreement is crumbling and schools face the worst funding crisis for years. The situation is only going to get worse," he said.

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