Give us cash or we close, say heads

13th June 2003 at 01:00
TEN London schools are on collision course with the Government, warning they will be forced to close unless it provides extra funding.

Heads at the schools in Barnet are refusing to lay off staff to balance large budget shortfalls, because they do not want to jeopardise pupils'

education.

Instead they plan to carry on as they are in the hope that ministers will provide more funding. If nothing materialises they expect the money to run out in January - when they will have to shut their gates.

The Barnet schools consist of eight secondaries with deficits of around pound;250,000 each and two primaries which are missing more than pound;50,000.

The schools say that cutting teachers would be illegal because it would prevent them offering a full curriculum, as would getting rid of support staff who are needed to meet the legal requirements of children with special needs.

The schools have rejected setting authorised deficit budgets because they would still have to be paid back eventually, resulting in staff cuts at a later date.

Nick Christou, head of East Barnet school and chair of Barnet Secondary Heads Forum, said: "Either the Government will see the situation is real and give us the money or at some point next year it will run out, we won't be able to pay staff and our schools will close."

The aggressive stance by Barnet heads comes as schools and local authorities across the country adopt a variety of tactics to cope.

David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said many schools were running deficit budgets - officially or unofficially - because they did not want to lay off staff.

But he warned this would lead to problems and job losses later in the year unless there was confidence in funding improving in the next two years.

At Maplesden Noakes school in Maidstone, Kent, head Douglas Kimber, plans to deal with his pound;134,000 shortfall by sending pupils home early next term.

"We refuse to run a deficit budget, we never have and never will," he said.

Instead music lessons for years 7, 8 and 9 will be cut and the pupils in question probably be sent home.

William Stewart

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