Around 140 special needs teachers and 260 teaching assistants are to be made redundant and re-employed in a controversial reorganisation authorised by a London borough's education committee .
Barnet education committee is aiming to cut costs by sacking the council's peripatetic primary and secondary special educational needs teachers and offering them new contracts.
Under the borough's standing orders the scheme does not need full council approval. Barnet will therefore stop organising SEN provision in mainstream schools in September. Instead the schools will appoint their own SEN staff from a pool of the peripatetic teachers. Barnet believes schools will be able to make better use of staff who currently spend part of the working day travelling.
The Labour group, which controls the council with Liberal Democrat support, admits some jobs could be lost although it hopes to avoid compulsory redundancy. Some teachers are expected to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy.
A council spokesman said Barnet spent around 5 per cent more on special needs than the average for London boroughs. Last year it overspent its Pounds 6 million special needs budget by Pounds 1m and a further overspend is forecast for this year. The council's overall budget had been reduced by Pounds 3m since last year.
He said the reorganisation, which is expected to produce an immediate saving of Pounds 250,000, would not affect special schools. Pupils with statements of special educational need would receive the same service but more flexible arrangements would be made for children without statements.
Committee chair Anne Jarvis, a former NUT activist and wife of the union's former general secretary Fred Jarvis, said: "We have had staff chasing from one end of the borough to the other, wasting time and money."
Malcolm Horne, secretary of Brent NUT, said: "This is a bad move."
He said a that a smaller-scale reorganisation in Brent between 1992 and 1995 had caused enormous problems for schools and that although no jobs were lost some full-time posts became part-time.
A spokesman for Brent Council said he could not confirm that this had happened. But he insisted that the result of the reorganisation in Brent was a more efficient service.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said local education authorities were entitled to reorganise services as long as the legal requirements for special needs support were still being met.