Half of schools cut jobs as budgets hit ‘breaking point’

27th May 2016 at 01:00
Teacher stress soars as heads are left with ‘no choice’ but to make redundancies

Squeezed budgets mean that more than two-thirds of schools have started making staff redundant or are seriously considering doing so, new TES research indicates.

The survey of schools also reveals that more than half – 52 per cent – have cut the number of teachers at their institution in the past year. Only 6 per cent of respondents said that the number of teachers on their staff had gone up.

Teachers’ representatives said that the findings were an indication of the severity of schools’ financial situation. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said: “Making redundancies is always the last resort but we are coming to breaking point. A number of schools are running out of money and have no other choice.”

The survey of 429 schools shows that 32 per cent have already made staff redundant and 38 per cent are seriously considering doing so. It also reveals that cuts are having a significant impact on teacher wellbeing.

Some 82 per cent of schools said that teachers were under more stress this year than last year and feared that this would force staff to leave the profession.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said: “All of these things are being driven by funding cuts.”

Impact on pupils

“These redundancies are bad for the teachers facing them but also for the children in those schools, as class sizes are going up and subjects are being cut,” Mr Courtney added.

The survey uncovered a range of other side effects of reduced budgets, including teachers being forced to take subjects for which they were unqualified (see graphic, opposite).

The findings come just two months after a survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) revealed that 90 per cent of school leaders believed the financial situation would become “critical”, “very serious” or “serious” over the next year.

And a TES Freedom of Information request earlier this year found that more than half of the 113 multi-academy trusts that responded were having to cut school staff, reduce their curriculum or bring in back-office savings to make ends meet.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of ASCL, said that the “chickens had come home to roost” as extra staff pension and national insurance costs “kicked in” and combined with smaller real-terms budgets.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Education is a priority for this government and we are continuing to invest billions into the sector each year.

“We have delivered on our manifesto commitment to protect the schools budget and, as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money in our schools.”


Tales from the redundancy front line

The headteacher

Budget constraints have forced the headteacher of one secondary in the North West to make 13 full-time equivalent members of staff at his school redundant over the past two years.

“I gave the at-risk notices out in person,” he told TES. “It’s the most emotive and difficult thing I’ve had to do.

“I’ve had a range of reactions. A lot of staff go very quiet. A lot send you a very extensive letter. Some are very upset. It’s very stressful.

“When you’re in the process, many staff want it done with more quickly. They just want to know.

“But it doesn’t come as a surprise. A lot of our staff know people in other schools, and we’re all doing it. That helps it to feel less personal.

“It’s not a nice job, in any way, shape or form. But I would rather I was doing it than someone else.

“At least I will do it in the way that I feel is right for the school, the kids and the community.”

The pastoral learning manager

“In education, you put everything in. It’s not just a job,” said a pastoral learning manager who was made redundant from a Coventry secondary school last year. “And then, all of a sudden, you’re not worth anything.

“I felt like a second-class citizen, surplus to requirements, despite all the hours I’d put in.

“It does feel personal. The head obviously had very clear ideas about who he wanted to get rid of. The demographic of the compulsory redundancies – we were all over 50. It was obvious, but unsaid.

“In the end, it boiled down to a choice between me and another colleague. He was my best friend at school.

“It was a tough time. I had to have a couple of weeks off, and go for counselling, which I’d never had before. But walking away was easy in the end: I just didn’t want to be there any more.

“You pick yourself up and move on. It’s what we’ve been teaching the kids to do.”

The teacher

“It’s quite devastating,” said a Cambridgeshire infants teacher who lost her job last August, after 23 years at the same school.

“We’ve all got responsibilities, mortgages to pay, families. It’s awful. Soul-destroying, actually. You just feel completely undermined. It’s like a bereavement, when you’ve been there that many years.

“It did feel quite personal. I was 48 when I was made redundant. When you’re at my end of the pay scale, you think: will I find another job?

“It’s been a tricky year. I’ve been doing supply, testing the waters elsewhere, which is good when you’ve been in one place for so long. It’s opened my eyes to different schools in different counties. And I’ve got a contract for next year.

“In teaching, we never thought we’d be facing redundancy. But it seems to be more and more common – I hear a lot about it now. It’s not the stable job it was.”

What to do if your job is on the line

Find out about your school’s redundancy procedure: is it fair?

Take advice from your union.

Keep your head: remember that you may need to ask your employer for a reference.

Be professional: school is not the place to express all your feelings about the process.

Speak to friends and family.

If possible, take a break: try not to do extra work at home for a couple of evenings.

Remind yourself of your track record, skills and capabilities.

Check your financial entitlements, again seeking advice from your union.

Remember that this is not personal: it is the post that is being made redundant, not you.

Don’t struggle on your own: call a helpline or seek counselling if you need support.

Remember that many people who are made redundant go on to better (higher-paid) things.

Call the Education Support Partnership helpline for teachers on 08000 562 561

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