GM school cuts put teachers' jobs at risk

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Clare Dean and Frances Rafferty open a TES special report on the grant-maintained sector

GRANT-MAINTAINED schools are bracing themselves for cuts of more than pound;100 million when they return to local authority control in September, a TES survey reveals.

GM schools are set to lose an average of two teachers each following budget cuts of 6 per cent or about pound;88,000, the survey shows. Support staff will also have to go.

The deadline for GM schools, launched 10 years ago as a flagship Tory policy, to declare which of Labour's new school categories they have selected expires today.

The survey, the first to detail the scale of the cuts, discloses that the worst-hit school - a secondary in Hampshire - will lose pound;500,000 and have to cut six teachers and four support staff.

Its findings are based on responses from more than 600 GM schools (more than half the sector) and come as Michael Fallon, a former education minister, admits in today's TES that the Conservatives "funked" the policy intended to make schools independent of local authorities.

He said: "We should simply have deemed all secondary schools GM, and left the LEAs to sort out their primaries."

New research by the Open University casts doubt on the sector's achievements. It concludes that GM status did not raise standards and that the schools were poor value for money.

The OU analysed the exam results of 91 GM comprehensives and 206 LEA secondaries and showed they were virtually identical once pupils' social backgrounds are taken into account.

Nine out of 10 GM schools told The TES that their budgets had been cut. More than 300 schools said by how much - pound;27.5m in total - and predicted the loss of at least 510 teachers and 333 non-teaching staff. If these budget cuts were replicated throughout the sector more than pound;100m would be lost.

GM heads are losing their special grants and have accused councils of hoarding cash for administration rather than delegating it to schools.

Their financial position is expected to worsen next year when they lose a one-off payment designed to smooth the transition to their new status.

Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, said: "GM schools have finally woken up to the fact that they have lost the extra bribe they used to have. They should realise that money was taken away from other schools in the first place."

The Funding Agency for Schools, which administered GM finances, has warned the Government of councils that GM heads claim are either hostile to them or not delegating cash.

It highlighted 23 authorities, including Essex, Kent, Hampshire, Liverpool and the London boroughs of Hillingdon, Lambeth and Sutton.

Essex has recruited 40 staff, partly to deal with its 128 ex-GM schools, but said that it had lost 500 officials during the GM decade. The new staff cost pound;890,000 compared to pound;10m for the 500 who had gone, said an official.

According to The TES survey just eight GM schools - four primaries, three secondaries and one special - are planning to become community schools and return to full local authority control. The bulk - 76 per cent - will become foundation schools, the option closest to their present status.

Goodbye GM: News 10-11; Leader, Michael Fallon, 16; Briefing 22-26

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