Pay deal fails to bring peace

16th February 1996 at 00:00
Parents and governors aim to keep up budget pressure, report Mark Whitehead and Josephine Gardiner. Parents, governors and teachers have warned of continuing unrest over school budgets and rising class sizes. They have raised the prospect of further protests despite the Government's claim to have done enough to avoid a repeat of last year's campaigns against cuts.

Last week's 3.75 per cent pay award to teachers is expected to force many schools to make further savings, despite the decision by most education authorities to fund the rise in full.

Primary schools, which need to recruit an extra 5,500 new teachers this year to protect current class sizes, are expected to be hardest hit.

According to Tony Travers, an independent local government analyst, writing in today's TES, the number of teaching posts is likely to fall again in the next 12 months, despite rising rolls and last year's 1 per cent cut in teaching jobs - equivalent to 4,500 posts.

With authorities across the country still digesting the impact and consequences of the pay settlement, the jury is out on whether Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, has done enough to prevent a repetition of last year's politically damaging wave of middle-class protests.

Most local authorities are attempting to protect education by making deep cuts in other services and planning above-inflation council-tax increases. Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire decided this week to break Government-imposed capping limits to try to safeguard school budgets.

But it became clear this week that pressure groups representing parents and governors are planning to keep the spotlight on the Government's school funding record.

The National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations is planning to launch a campaign at its Easter conference to focus attention on rising class sizes.

The confederation is likely to seize on the latest Office for Standards in Education figures, published by the School Teachers' Review Body, which confirm that class sizes and pupil-teacher ratios continued to grow last year. Worst affected are primary schools, where ratios increased for the seventh year running.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, attacked the pay review body for not recommending maximum class sizes.

"The Government must face up to the fact that class sizes are continuing to rise and there will be more job losses."

The Fight Against Cuts in Education group, which led protests last year uniting parents, governors and teachers, is planning a demonstration in Nottingham on April 20 to put pressure on the political parties in the run up to the May local elections.

Mike Fredericks, FACE's vice chair, said: "People on the ground can see what is happening in the schools and they know the system is cracking up."

The National Governors' Council is to publish a survey on the funding before the end of term. Chairman Simon Goodenough said: "We know from the Budget that schools in some areas will be unable to avoid making further cuts in teachers. There are many that called on their reserves this year and they will not be able to do that again." He estimated that between a quarter and a third of schools were in this position.

Governors at Wheatley Park comprehensive near Oxford, are faced with a possible shortfall of Pounds 250,000. Peter Baker, chair of Wheatley governors, said this could mean selling the school minibus and losing up to three teachers as well as support staff.

And at Grange infants school, Tuffley, Gloucester, headteacher Carole May, her deputy Cynthia Burgess and three members of the teaching staff have offered to donate Pounds 1,000 of their salaries to help stave off the loss of a teacher.

The offer was made in the face of a budget meeting held by Gloucestershire council this week. The authority faces a Pounds 12.8 million shortfall in the 199697 budget and said cuts in education are inevitable.

Meanwhile the Labour party has begun a campaign to keep the issue of class size and underfunding alive among governors, parents and voters across the country.

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