Living in dread of being dead meat

10th October 1997 at 01:00
With the Government intent on abolishing the grant-maintained sector, what does the future hold for schools which opted for independence under the Conservatives? Clare Dean and Dorothy Lepkowska report on the results of a TES survey

Half of all grant-maintained primary headteachers expect they or their schools will face reprisals from their former local authority if they are forced to return to the council fold.

One head said she was told by the chief education officer: "You got more than your fair share when you were grant maintained. GM heads are dead meat. "

More than nine out of 10 said they regretted any moves to force them back under council control. One head said: "We have seen Jerusalem and now we are promised North Korea on a wet afternoon."

A Hertfordshire head said: "The return to the LEA would be the most backward step in education that I have ever been involved in."

Overall, 27 per cent of primaries said they opted out because they were unhappy with their education authority, either over funding, the services provided or because of a breakdown in relations between the school and council officials. Many now predicted they could go to the bottom of the pile for funding.

One head said: "The Government is making too many positive assumptions about the quality of LEAs and their personnel, and should look at the reasons why schools went grant maintained in the first place."

Six out of 10 schools said they broke away because they wanted more control over budgets and the direction of the school, while 43 per cent cited additional funding as the major factor.

After opting out, repair and maintenance of buildings was the priority of 85 per cent of primary schools, followed by increased staffing in 80 per cent. About 15 per cent said the additional funding and freedom of becoming grant maintained meant they could expand nurseries or improve special needs facilities.

Now 64 per cent of grant-maintained primaries expect redundancies due to changes in funding, predicting a loss of 145 teaching jobs, 122 classroom assistants, special needs and support posts and almost 40 secretarial and administrative staff.

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