Staff cuts running into thousands

29th August 2003 at 01:00
SECONDARY schools made more than 700 teachers redundant and were unable to replace a further 2,700 because of the funding crisis, a TES survey suggests today.

The results show the Government drastically underestimated staff cuts as heads struggled to balance budgets and implement reforms to cut workload.

These findings, at the start of the new academic year, paint an alarming picture of curriculum cuts, increased class sizes and cancellation of much-needed improvements to buildings.

Tim Dingle, (pictured right) head of The Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, has pledged pound;15,000 of his salary over five years to ease his school's budget problems. The school also mounted a pound;1 million fundraising campaign to safeguard seven teaching posts.

In East Anglia, one comprehensive is considering charging some pupils for textbooks while another in Essex has introduced a levy of pound;30 per family.

The picture varies widely with some schools taking on staff while others shed them or replace expensive teachers with cheaper ones. The net increase in the estimated number of additional teachers taken on by state secondaries once redundancies and non-replacements are discounted is just 89 while schools can expect 25,000 more pupils, according to government predictions.

The survey by The TES and the Secondary Heads Association indicates that there have been 730 teacher redundancies this year in English secondary schools.

More worryingly, it suggests a further 2,700 teachers and more than 1,150 support staff have left schools and not been replaced because of funding problems.

The survey comes just two months after Tony Blair told MPs that around 500 teachers were being made redundant in primary and secondary schools. The Department for Education and Skills said half the losses were down to falling pupil numbers.

But the TESSHA survey of 480 English state secondaries found that 75 per cent of redundancies and 74 per cent of teachers who were not replaced were in schools with static or rising rolls.

John Dunford, SHA general secretary, said: "The number of jobs lost in secondary schools is a true reflection of the extent of the damage to education in these schools from this year's funding problems.

"Where pupil numbers are not falling this inevitably means larger classes, fewer subjects to choose in GCSE, A-levels and vocational courses and the postponement of essential building work."

The survey shows staff shortages continue to be a problem and indicates that English state secondaries have 1,880 unfilled permanent teacher vacancies. It also suggests that one in six appointments was unsatisfactory.

Heads have told how they were forced to plunge themselves into debt to hold on to staff. One, Dudley Whittaker from Sudbury Upper, Suffolk, has spent all the school's pound;260,000 reserves and held on to a nominal pound;1 to avoid going into the red.

The Beacon school in Banstead, Surrey, said it will send pupils home early every Friday and other schools have had to abandon alternative courses for less able pupils.

In Eastbourne, Ian Jungius, head of Willingdon community school, said:

"Damage is being done to schools now. Promises of 'bread tomorrow' are not acceptable."

Results from the 480 English state secondary schools were used to estimate the picture across the sector. They suggest that the highest number of teaching post cuts have been made in the South-east with around 600, followed by London with around 410 while secondary schools in the West Midlands have experienced the least with 140.

But the South-west is estimated to lead the way in actual teacher redundancies with 164 followed by London with 154. The survey suggests that Yorkshire and Humberside has the fewest with 19.

The cuts will pose a threat to the first phase of the Government's long-awaited school workforce reforms that are supposed to become reality next week. Schools have taken on an extra 3,548 teachers and 4,308 support staff, but many heads warn the changes will be impossible to implement.

But there is some comfort as teacher shortages continue to fall. The tally of 1,880 unfilled posts in state secondaries in England is down from around 3,700 last year and 4,900 the year before. The proportion of unsatisfactory appointments has also fallen - to one in six from almost one in five in 2002.

Mr Dunford said: "The improvement in teacher recruitment is welcome although there are still difficulties in some subjects and in some parts of the country. This year these problems have been overshadowed in many schools by the gravity of the funding crisis."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "This is a very partial survey covering less than one-seventh of secondary schools.

Many of the redundancies are unlikely to be compulsory. At this time of year there are always a lot of schools making staff changes for a wide variety of reasons."

The TESSHA survey also drew responses from private schools, sixth-form colleges and Welsh secondaries.

News, 6 and 7, Leader, 12


2 2,729 teachers and 1,152 support staff not replaced because of lack of funding

* 730 teacher and 301 support staff redundancies

* 1,881 unfilled teacher posts

* 4,246 or 16.6 per cent of teachers appointed were judged unsatisfactory by heads

Figures are estimates for all state secondaries in England based on returns from 480 headteachers surveyed in July

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