Salaries slashed as private school fights to stay open

23rd October 2009 at 01:00
#163;500,000 fundraiser not enough to prevent 15 per cent pay reduction at Cornish independent

Staff at a private school that ran a huge fundraising campaign in order to stay open have agreed to a 15 per cent pay cut.

Teachers at the 320-pupil Bolitho School in Penzance, Cornwall, took the cut even though #163;500,000 had been raised in donations from parents and friends of the school.

The move emerged as a union revealed it is now aware of half a dozen private schools where staff pay packets have been hit because of financial problems.

And an ongoing survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has also heard from some 60 teachers from all over the country who have agreed to lower salaries.

In some areas, teachers have had their wages frozen. At Mowden Hall Preparatory School in Northumberland, a row erupted after parents were told a 2.8 per cent fee hike was necessary to give staff a pay rise which did not then materialise.

The 160 staff at Bolitho, where boarding fees can reach more than #163;21,000 a year, were "shocked" to be informed this September that a pay cut would be necessary to preserve jobs.

Mark Shere, the school's head, said some of the 52 teachers had taken a "pay holiday" in September, while others had agreed for the wage cut to be deducted from their pay packets each month.

"Staff were shocked at first, because we had held the successful fundraising campaign, but we explained why it was necessary and they took it voluntaril," he said. "Sixty-five per cent of our fees go on wages, so it is a large element.

"The school's most important resource is its staff - and that's not just the teachers, it is everyone from the minibus driver to the grounds staff, the IT department and kitchen staff."

Mr Shere said he hoped to have wages back to normal by September 2011 at the latest.

"We are putting into place a number of prudent measures to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

Bolitho School was forced to launch its fundraising campaign in January this year, after its bank withdrew its overdraft, and parents made donations of up to #163;20,000 to the cause.

John Richardson, ATL national official for independent schools, said although the union was "strongly opposed" to pay cuts, the case of Bolitho School was "exceptional" and an amicable agreement had been reached.

But he warned teachers elsewhere to beware.

"A pay cut should not be taken lightly, but could be inevitable to save jobs," he said. "But it must not be exploited. Our advice to anyone faced with one is to make sure the school is completely transparent about the state of its finances and makes a clear argument for it."

The news of increasing numbers of schools trimming the payroll comes as others have been forced to close entirely.

The ATL has recorded eight straight school closures in the first seven months of the year, and eight mergers.


Private institutions closed between January and July this year

Morley Hall Preparatory School, Derbyshire

Windmill House School, Leicestershire

Arley House School, Nottinghamshire

The Alcuin School, West Yorkshire

St Margaret's School, West Sussex

Baston School, Kent

Belcanto London Academy Theatre School, South-east London

Attenborough Prep School, Nottinghamshire

Source: Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

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