Jobs cull as councils scrabble for savings

15th October 2010 at 01:00
Nearly 80% of local authorities plan cuts to education services as funding crisis hits

Thousands of teachers and education staff are facing the sack as the effects of swingeing cuts are felt in local authorities, The TES has learnt.

New figures suggest that nearly 80 per cent of councils have made, or are planning, redundancies in their central education services - taking an axe to school improvement teams, education welfare departments and educational psychology services.

Teachers' leaders have warned that these redundancies will create severe knock-on effects for frontline services in schools.

A separate survey this week also found that a "significant proportion" of pupil referral units are braced for widespread teacher redundancies as part of the local authority cutbacks. These teachers are vulnerable because they are often contracted to the local authority rather than to a school.

Educational experts have warned that paring back central services will leave weak schools "hanging in the wind".

The news that councils are gearing up to make massive savings comes as schools await the outcome of the three-year comprehensive spending review on Wednesday.

Key education quangos such as the National College, the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the Children's Workforce Development Council were also expecting to hear their fate as The TES went to press.

Schools, too, are expected to find out what they will get through the "pupil premium", which will be given to schools for every child from a disadvantaged background.

Unions say they are in talks with local authority employers across the country over proposed redundancies in central services.

In Birmingham, 9,000 education and children services staff have had their jobs put "under review".

In Haringey, 51 members of the school improvement team were this week expected to hear that their jobs are "at risk" and in Bolton, 15 similar posts are up for the axe.

Marian Brooks, executive director of Cambridge Education, the private firm that runs education in Islington, said she was unhappy at having to issue redundancy notices to 14 teachers involved in outreach work in schools.

She said: "It's not a good situation at all and the council is equally uneasy and upset by it."

Council leaders have already been stung by a cut of pound;311m in area-based education grants announced by Michael Gove in the summer, and the end of National Strategies next April means there has already been a reduction in support services.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, which carried out the survey of proposed job cuts among members in 63 local authorities, added: "These cuts are going to affect frontline services and we don't believe there's an economic necessity for it. Many of these teachers are working with the most vulnerable people in society."

John Chowcat, general secretary of Aspect, a union for education professionals, said although schools had had their grants largely protected, they would still bear the impact of "disproportionate" cuts to local authorities.

Specialised teams he said, would either be replaced by generic posts which lacked the same levels of knowledge, or outsourced to the private sector.

John Bangs, the NUT's former head of education and now a visiting professor at the Institute of Education, said the struggling schools would suffer disproportionately.

The loss of support for improving literacy and numeracy, he said, would mean "the early warning system for schools in trouble will simply disappear."

"Schools will be left swinging in the wind," he added.

Those making the cuts in advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review insist they are only cutting jobs where necessary.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers has written to Michael Gove this week reminding him how vital central support services are.

The association's general secretary Russell Hobby wrote: "It would be wrong to suggest that schools' budgets are protected when essential services and grants disappear, decline or become charged for."

He also called for the Government to be "honest" about the level of cuts, so schools could genuinely plan for the future.

"We don't want cuts that are drip fed or disguised," he said.

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