4th July 2003 at 01:00
Your career and pay questions answered by John Howson

Q My deputy head is working on the September timetable. As a result of staff cuts I will have to teach larger classes next year - some may have more than 30 pupils. Can I object?

Q Our school is cutting the amount of non-contact time next year for teachers without responsibilities. This is to get the budget on an even keel. It will mean less time for marking and preparation in school time and more work to take home. Can they do this?

Q Our head has prepared a paper for the governing body to show that the school will have spent its budget by Christmas. How will the staff be affected; will our salaries still be paid?

A There is no doubt that the present budget crisis has caused anxiety in many schools, particularly in parts of London and the South-east. Elsewhere there seems to be less pressure, and some schools may even be better off than last year. There is little teachers can do individually to object to measures schools are taking to deal with financial shortfalls. Except at key stage 1, there is no maximum class size.

The same probably applies to non-contact time. Assuming the rules are fair, schools can determine how many lessons teachers have to teach each week.

The exception is newly qualified teachers, who are given a reduced timetable. How this move to cut non-contact time would fit in with the aims of the workload agreement, only time will tell.

As for schools running out of money, don't fear for your salary. Such a situation means the school would end the year in deficit and need to find a way of eradicating that next year. The school could make staff redundant if it thought that was the only way to clear the shortfall. But few schools have taken such extreme measures, so this may be unlikely.

Those schools that are looking at declining pupil numbers are more likely to face budget pressures than those where rolls are static or rising. If you don't know what the position is in your school, ask your representative on the governing body to find out. Most local authorities have forward projections for their schools and should be happy to share them with the governing body. Alternatively, ask the local secretary of your professional association to find out.

John Howson is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and managing director of Education Data Surveys. Send your career questions to him at

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