Headteachers prepare for large-scale job losses

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The Independent Online

Despite the Coalition's insistence that spending on schools will increase, headteachers are preparing to make early cuts to their staff.

Rising class sizes and the weakening of some subject areas in the curriculum are likely to be among the outcomes of the cuts.

Britain's largest headteachers' union, the NAHT, has warned all its members to prepare for redundancies. Up to 15,000 of the 24,000 state schools in England Wales could face spending cuts, it reckons. Guidance sent out to members warns them to grasp the nettle early – to avoid the prospect of even heavier staffing cuts in the future.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the NAHT, said: "Every branch meeting that I have been going to, people have been asking me about how to cope with redundancies."

Teachers' leaders argue that many schools are facing cuts to pay for the new "pupil premium" – a £430 cash award to schools for every pupil they take in entitled to free school meals. Mr Hobby predicted that teaching assistants and senior managers were likely to bear the brunt of the costs: "There's a limit to the number of teachers you can do without."

Martin Freedman, head of pay and conditions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, warned: "It will be difficult for the Government to defend teachers losing their jobs – but down the line there will be threats to them.

"Cutting teaching assistants and senior managers will take away a lot of the support from teachers – and schools and pupils will suffer."

Christina McAnea, the head of education at Unison, said cutting teaching assistants would harm the most vulnerable pupils. She added: "We are concerned about the support there will be for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special educational needs."

Mr Hobby said the biggest impact would be on the morale of the staff: "The energy of the teachers is a big force in delivery. Making support staff redundant is not good for the relationship of the school with the local community. It is not good if – at the first sign of difficulty – you are making people who live in the community redundant."

Cutting senior management could leave some subject areas weaker, and is more likely to lead to a range of individual school initiatives being scrapped.

The guidance issued by the 28,000-strong NAHT to its members states: "The number of posts at risk of redundancy may increase if a decision is delayed – especially where the need has been identified because of a falling roll or a financial shortfall."

It goes on to urge heads to consider calling for volunteers or offering premature retirement to all teaching staff over the age of 55.