New spending fails to save 2,000 teaching jobs

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The Independent Online
TWO-THOUSAND teaching jobs have been lost this summer and more are threatened, despite the deepening teacher recruitment crisis, according to a survey published today.

An extra pounds 1bn for local authority spending on schools has failed to remedy years of cuts in which budgets have been pared to the bone and class sizes have risen.

The survey, by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, has been published as education ministers are bidding for more money in the comprehensive spending review.

It covers 9,500 primary and secondary schools, more than one-third of the total. The survey found that 752 teaching jobs had been lost and another 135 were threatened. If, as the union expects, the picture for all schools is the same, more than 2,000 jobs have already gone and another 363 are at risk.

Teachers in the union's branches, who compiled the information, are warning that class sizes will rise. The Wolverhampton branch secretary wrote: "Many class sizes in primary schools will rise to over 40 per class as a result of the redundancies."

Between 200 and 300 teachers have been made compulsorily redundant. The rest have gone through early or ill-health retirement, with schools taking the opportunity to make older, more expensive staff redundant to make way for cheaper, young ones.

In some places, teachers have been made redundant because the number of pupils is declining, but in most the union blames cost-cutting.

A spokesman said: "A year ago we were dealing with a threadbare education system. Even if new resources are beginning to arrive in schools, it is not yet enough. I am sure the Government knows this."

Ministers have begun a multi-million-pound advertising recruitment campaign because of an alarming drop in people applying to teacher training courses. Figures released last month showed that the total number of teachers has begun to decline, though only by around 3,000.

Peter Smith, the union's general secretary, said: "This is gloomy news for a government which puts such emphasis on education. At the very moment when we need to be recruiting teachers, there is worrying evidence that serving teachers are either jumping ship or being made to walk the plank."

However, the loss of teaching jobs appears to be slowing. A similar survey carried out two years ago found that 4,000 teachers were losing their jobs. A Department for Education spokesman said an extra 1,500 teachers were being employed in the Government's initiative to reduce class sizes.

The Government's pledge on class sizes cannot be delivered without tough limits on parental choice, Labour councillors warned yesterday.

Ministers were trying to achieve the impossible, they said, in promising parents smaller infant classes, as well as the right to choose a school.

"You shouldn't make pledges if you aren't in a position to carry them out. The Government has made two pledges, on class sizes and parental choice. It is in danger of failing to deliver on either," Gavin Moore, Labour chair of education in the London borough of Lewisham, said.

Delegates at the Council of Local Education Authorities annual conference in Buxton, Derbyshire, also gave only cautious support to Education Action Zones.