Parents' anger grows over cash crisis

10th February 1995 at 00:00
Clare Dean reports on the school governors who, unable to stomach further cuts in their budgets, are now preparing themselves to defy the law. Ministers were under pressure from parents this week to re-think the national funding formula for schools in an attempt to avoid widespread cuts and increased class sizes.

As the rebellion gathered pace, parents' leaders demanded that the Government either fund teachers' pay properly or take responsibility for pay away from schools.

Margaret Morrissey, from the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "Parents have got to the stage where we feel enough is enough.

"We are the ones who are having to pick up the tab, the ones being asked for increased money and the ones who are having to go out every Sunday instead of every other Sunday to raise money to try to redeem the situation.

"We don't want to hear the arguments any more. We want to see teachers' wages funded centrally or the formula for schools looked at very seriously. We asked in 1988 for this to be done as a matter of urgency and if it had been, we would not be in the situation we are in now."

The call came as more than 2,000 teachers in Oxfordshire prepared to stage a half-day strike to coincide with next Tuesday's meeting of the county council, while in Leicestershire and Derbyshire there were suggestions of putting some children on a three-day week.

In Devon, where the council is facing cuts of more than Pounds 22 million, the chairman of the county federation of parent teacher associations, Bruce Clarke, said: "Our politicians have let us down and ordinary people are now determined to show the Government where its priorities should be."

In Newcastle, where there was a one-day strike last week, head teachers wrote to the Prime Minister saying: "Parents and governing bodies find it incomprehensible that education services will be seriously cut next year while council tax will reduce simultaneously."

Elsewhere in the country governors threatened to resign or set deficit budgets. Simon Goodenough, chairman of the National Governors Council, said: "These are not scare tactics. They represent very serious concerns."

Budget problems for schools caused by this year's toughest ever local government spending round have been exacerbated by rising pupil numbers.

An analysis by The TES of the budgets of more than 30 metropolitan authorities showed that school budgets and central services will be prime targets for cuts. Discretionary awards and community education will also be badly hit.

Exactly half of the LEAs said they would either cut the subsidy or increase the price of school meals, while almost a third said they would have to pare or abolish school maintenance programmes. More than a quarter will cut funding for special needs and adult education as well as welfare awards for the most needy.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, urged the TUC to co-ordinate a national campaign against the cuts.

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