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When job losses must fund 'fair' settlement

The notice is already on the staffroom wall at Sandfields comprehensive warning that there will be teacher redundancies to fund the pay rise. Last year there were five job losses, and this year there may be more.

For staff at the school in Port Talbot, West Glamorgan, this makes a mockery of Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard's claim of "a fair settlement for teachers".

"What's the point of getting anything if someone's job is going to go?" said Dai Michael, 47, a teacher for 26 years and head of sciences.

Staff felt that providing more flexibility for discretionary payments was a nonsense, because there was no money. "The rungs fell off the ladder of promotion a long time ago," said Mr Michael.

Richard Gauregui, 23, a PE teacher, said the future seemed bleak. "I enjoy teaching, but I don't like what is happening at the moment. How long I stay in the profession I don't know: it could be I'll be pushed before I jump. We are losing teachers and the facilities need improving, but there is no money. "

Ken Lewis, 46, a science teacher for 11 years, thought the Government might cynically have given nurses less in their pay award to make it harder for teachers and others to complain. "They are angels - we're not going to get any sympathy."

He added: "Since I started teaching, there are changes all the time. People are being baffled by it all. I wouldn't recommend anybody to go into teaching now."

For headteacher David Winfield, secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers Wales, the pay award compounds a financial crisis precipitated by local government reorganisation.

From April, the school will go into the new Neath Port Talbot authority, which has predicted a best-case scenario of cutting Pounds 3.3 million from its education budget, with 100 teachers' jobs lost across the LEA. In addition, the council does not have the money to fund the pay rise, which will come from the budgets delegated to schools. It effectively forces schools to pay.

Mr Winfield believes the offer - worth on average Pounds 130 for a basic teacher - is derisory. He said staff reacted with horror when they knew it was to be staggered. He also believes the option to discount points for experience and service will bring problems, and create local pay bargaining.

With a budget of Pounds 1.1 million for a school with 43 teaching staff and 650 pupils, he can see the pay rise adding Pounds 9,000 to the bill. There will be job losses, creating class sizes of around 30 and with some subjects having no specialists. There has been no head of geography since last year's redundancies.

In addition, the school has five specialist units meeting a range of special needs. There are fears that the generous staffing levels and budget commitment required to enable integration into mainstream education will be adversely affected.

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