Changes in funding support for ethnic-minority pupils have left many teachers feeling vulnerable, reports Nadene Ghouri.
HUNDREDS of teachers are threatened with redundancy as a result of government attempts to raise standards of achievement among ethnic-minority pupils.
Under changes announced last year, individual schools will be given control over the budget designed to boost minority achievement, formerly known as "Section 11" money.
But in response three education authorities - Hackney and Waltham Forest in London and Medway in Kent - have issued redundancy warning notices to 280 staff.
They are set to abolish their existing teams of support teachers because they fear schools will be reluctant to re-hire them on an agency basis. Heads can spend the money as they choose.
All three authorities say they believe the teachers will be re-employed on an individual basis in schools. But there is no guarantee.
Union leader Nigel de Gruchy, of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said any job losses would be "monstrous".
"This a classic example of the wretched effects of local management delegation," he said. "There is no reason to make a single teacher redundant."
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:
"These three authorities are acting against government advice. This is not the way to win the hearts and minds of Section 11 teachers."
Mr McAvoy pointed out that most authorities have secured continued employment for the Section 11 staff through co-operation with schools.
A spokeswoman for Waltham Forest said notice of redundancy was merely a precaution, and part of a process intended to help staff find secure posts in individual schools.
Waltham Forest has also announced plans to axe 18 teaching posts and shut its unique Education Visiting (pre-school education welfare) service. The service, advises parents on early literacy and health care and was recently praised by government officials as an example of how the new Sure Start programme might work.
A council spokeswoman said the authority shut the service after the district auditor "queried why we spent half a million a year on a service no other council has".
* Heads have warned that the Government's Fresh Start plans to turn around failing schools could become a "legal minefield" as sacked teachers seek redress from industrial tribunals.
Under the scheme, failing schools will be closed and re-opened with a new name, new head and mostly new staff.
Two more Fresh Starts were announced this week, bringing the total to four. Fifty staff at Alderman Derbyshire School in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, have been told they are to lose their jobs in July. Staff at Perronet Thompson school in Hull are also waiting to hear their fate.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It's all very well talking about closing and reopening schools, but in the process there's a danger of throwing good teachers on the scrapheap. Legally, it's hugely complicated."
A spokesman for Nottingham city council said the authority could not rule out compulsory redundancy but "will do everything in our power to look after staff".
Previous Fresh Start schools in Newcastle and Sheffield re-employed under half their original teachers.