Socialist Worker

War costs every school one teacher

Schools in England and Wales returned this week to a massive budget crisis

Issue No. 1867

THE FUNDING disaster facing schools is far deeper than the government has so far acknowledged.

The number of teaching jobs lost is likely to be at least 2,500.

Last term education secretary Charles Clarke first denied there was any funding shortfall and then tried to shift the blame onto local education authorities or individual schools.

But two surveys-by the Times Educational Supplement and the Guardian-show schools around the country have been forced to either sack teachers and support staff or not fill vacant posts.

'Devolving budgets to individual schools means the impact varies enormously,' says Kevin Courtney, secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Camden, north London.

'But the overall reason for the shortfall is national.

'The government increased national insurance contributions by 1 percent.

'It increased pension contributions by 5 percent. In addition there was a small increase in teachers' pay of 2.9 percent.

'The extra money for schools, talked up by Gordon Brown, did not even cover those outgoings.

'So there is a general funding crisis.'

Three months ago Tony Blair claimed the number of teacher redundancies would be 'only 500'.

And the government said half of those would be due to falling pupil numbers.

But the Times Educational Supplement survey suggests 700 teachers were sacked at the end of last term and a further 2,700 were not replaced. Just one in four of those lost posts were in schools with falling pupil numbers.

The Guardian's more comprehensive survey also came up with far higher job losses than the government admits.

Many local education authorities were reluctant to say how many jobs had gone. Some cited fear of reprisals from the government when it comes to the allocation of future funding.

And the crazy market mechanisms to distribute cash mean many local authorities simply do not know how many jobs have gone.

Schools are forced to compete with each other for cash.

They are treated as separate businesses, which means it is very hard to get a full picture of what is happening.

But in every part of the country schools are having to take desperate measures to head off job losses.

One East Anglian school is considering charging pupils for books.

Another in Essex has introduced a levy of £30 per family.

A school in Caerphilly is threatened with closure because of a £750,000 deficit.

Cowes high school on the Isle of Wight has sacked one in eight of its teaching staff.

And in many areas there are schools faced with having to shut their doors for half a day or a day a week.

One secondary school in Croydon, south London, had to take this step last term.

London school student Hannah Kuchler spoke for many when she told last week's People's Assembly in London, 'We heard on the news that every secondary school is missing a teacher.

'Where has the money gone? On this war, that's where.'


Uniting to abolish SATs

THE NUT union is set this term to ballot for a boycott of the hated SATs tests for seven, 11 and 14 year olds.

An Anti-SATs Alliance bringing together parents, teachers, students and governors to campaign to abolish tests has been set up. Jon Berry says, 'There is clearly a link between the funding crisis and the SATs.

'National testing is about selecting children. Selection is cheaper than providing a proper education across the board.

'The test results are used in drawing up league tables, which influence what money schools get.'

For details of the campaign to abolish SATs see www.stopthesats.plus.com or phone 01727 835 554.


New Labour's plan for cut price teaching hits the skids

THE FUNDING crisis is set to hit the government's scheme to get teaching on the cheap under the guise of cutting workload.

A national agreement on workload is to be introduced in schools in England this term.

The largest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), strongly opposes the deal. It rightly argues that it is driven by the idea of getting low paid classroom assistants to do the job of teaching.

But even unions such as the NASUWT-the second biggest teachers' union-that signed up to the deal now have to recognise the money is not there to fund it.

Evidence suggests that, particularly in primary schools, it is classroom assistants and special educational needs teachers who are facing the sack or reduced hours.

These are precisely the people who the government claimed would take the pressure off classroom teachers under its deal.

And the government says it wants to freeze teachers' pay in order to pay for the funding crisis. Classroom assistants are already paid disgracefully.

Unison union members in London schools are balloting to continue their long-running battle to increase allowances for working in the capital.

There are a number of local campaigns against cuts. Strikes in London over pay have brought together all workers in schools.

That kind of action and unity is now needed nationally. That means fighting over pay and against redundancies. It also means rejecting the government's workload deal, which aims to set unions and workers at each other's throats.


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Features
Sat 6 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1867
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