A tale of savage cuts and golden hellos

Richard Garner reports on the contrasts at the heart of a system in chaos

Forget the threat of redundancies - Tim Benson's problem is recruiting teachers in the first place.

His school in Newham, east London, is one of many in the South that have to offer new staff a series of sweeteners - from golf club membership to £1,000 "golden hellos" - just for turning up to teach.

So while some of the schools worst hit by the budget crisis are warning of laying off staff, others are touting for employees.

The golf package is being offered by Thurrock's local education authority, while Newham council is allowing schools to boost teachers' salaries by up to £1,500.

Mr Benson, head of Nelson primary school, said the incentives retain some staff who would otherwise leave. However, the school has suffered a £60,000 shortfall this year, which means the loss of a teaching post.

"I'm relying on six agency teachers," Mr Benson said. "They cost nearly £37,000 a year, with commission, compared to £25,000-£27,000 for a home-grown teacher." Those he has hired come from as far afield as New Zealand, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

"They are excellent teachers," he said, "but they do need help to get to know the national curriculum, and that takes up the established staff's time."

Even with the incentives, he says,he is lucky if he gets more than one reply to a job advert. "There is no incentive for anyone to move to the South," he said. "What is needed is a London-wide strategy."

That is what the Government's new London "education tsar", Professor Tim Brighouse, and Stephen Twigg, the minister responsible for London schools, are working on.

London and Home Counties teachers' leaders are agreed that - whatever the problems with redundancies around the country - incentives such as Newham's and Thurrock'swill be just as necessary in the years to come as they were during Labour's first five years in office when redundancies were not an issue.

A £100,000 shortfall in the school budget has forced head teacher Peter Bishop to make four of his 12-strong teaching staff redundant this summer, as well as one of seven classroom assistants.

His school, the Vyner primary in Birkenhead, the Wirral, has suffered a drop in its roll - but only from 220 pupils to 200. The teaching redundancies cover three full-time, and one-part time, members of staff.

The cut in staffing will undoubtedly have an impact on the school. "One of the teachers worked on a specialist reading scheme which allows for one-to-one tuition with slow readers," he said. "That will have to go.

"Also the special education needs co-ordinator will now have to take classes full-time, so part of the work that she had been able to do will go, too." In addition, the classroom assistant helped to teach six-year-olds to read.

His local authority is one of those that have suffered the most as a result of the Government's decision to change the formula for distributing school cash this year. Over the Wirral as a whole, 28 full-time teaching posts have been declared redundant and 73 school support staff.

Mr Bishop says he has never known such a financial crisis in his 18 years as a headteacher, a period which has included years when Conservative cuts in public spending were at their greatest.

"I feel devastated by it," he said. "I have had to lose staff over the years but never like this. We have had to lose some excellent teachers this year and their loss will obviously have an effect on the school."

He is particularly critical of attempts by Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, to try to pin the blame for the financial crisis elsewhere. "I think Mr Clarke will say anything to get himself off the hook," he said.

A survey earlier this week byThe Independent showed that 40 per cent of local education authorities are having to make redundancies because of budget shortfalls.

If the figures are an accurate reflection of the country as a whole, around 960 teachers will have received redundancy notices along with more than 530 support staff.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Pre School Practitioner

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, they are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development & Relationship Manager

£45000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development & Relati...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant - Startup

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Personal Assistant is require...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?