Headteachers are setting millions of pounds aside for redundancy payouts as they prepare for financial cutbacks, new figures show.
Local authorities have told the Government that he cost of laying teachers off has more than doubled in recent years - from pound;9 million in 200607 to a projected pound;25 million for 201011.
Experts believe that the latest jump - predictions for the cost have gone up pound;5 million in just the last year - is down to the recession and the expected squeeze on education budgets. Making staff redundant is one way heads can reduce their costs.
Another potential reason for the increase is the rise in academies, which can lead to redundancies if staff decide not to switch over to the new employer.
The new predictions for the 201011 school year forecast that the costs will be broken down into pound;100,000 in nursery schools, pound;12 million in primary schools, pound;11 million in secondaries and pound;1 million in special schools. A figure of pound;25 million would work out at the loss of approximately 300 teachers, depending on length of service
Ivan Ould, chair of the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers, said lower funding for some areas might be contributing to financial problems. He also said the recent pay deal for teachers caught schools unawares, with local authority budgets based on a predicted 2.1 per cent pay increase rather than the 2.3 that was agreed earlier this year.
"In times like these, perhaps this needs a re-think," Mr Ould said. "There's a risk of poorly funded authorities reducing staff levels to cover this cost. (The three-year pay-deal) adds up to a pay rise of more than 7 per cent over three years. This was not expected and grants for schools have not increased to cover. There will be challenges for many to balance the books."
Mr Ould thinks headteachers noticing falling rolls are being prudent, realising they need to reduce staffing levels in the future.
"Every local authority is looking to reduce costs over the next few years and this is the impact," he said.
Malcolm Trobe, policy director of heads' union ASCL, said there were no anecdotal reasons for the sudden rise in redundancy costs.
"I think 201112 is going to be the year when efficiency savings really hit, so maybe schools are jumping the gun," he said. "Primary numbers are rising, but secondaries are still hit by falling pupil numbers."