Parents told to raise money to save teachers from sack

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The Independent Online
Parents have been forced to dip into their own pockets to prevent two teachers being axed at their children's school.

Governors at Hagley Middle School, in Hereford and Worcester, sent a letter to parents of the 510 pupils asking them to make a voluntary donation of pounds 40 per child to save the teaching posts.

The letter from the governors' chairman, James Cowlishaw, said the school needed pounds 26,000 to avoid making compulsory redundancies.

The scheme proved successful. Parents have now received a second letter from the governors saying the redundancy programme has been cancelled.

The governors' original letter a fortnight ago said: "Commitment by 100 per cent of parents is essential for the proposals to proceed and an IMMEDIATE response is of paramount importance."

The letter warned redundancy notices would be issued by half-term on 24 May unless the governors were certain funding would be available to meet the school's running costs.

Parents were told to pay the pounds 40-per-child donation in three installments, starting this term. Those in genuine hardship were advised to contact the headmaster, Colin Millett, who "will give sympathetic consideration to your personal circumstances, in strict confidence".

Governors first sounded out parents about the idea at a meeting to discuss the school's financial crisis a month ago.

The school, whose motto is "Quality Education through A Caring Partnership", was founded in the mid-Seventies and has 27 full- and part-time teachers.

During the past three years governors had used up the school's pounds 50,000 reserve to maintain staff levels on a reduced budget.

In the second letter from the governors, which parents received this week, Mr Cowlishaw and Mr Millett said parental contributions and other savings had enabled the school to produce a balanced budget. "The redundancy programme has, therefore, been cancelled".

Hereford and Worcester's education budget this year is pounds 227m, which is used to teach more than 100,000 pupils.

The county's principal education officer, Dr Eddie Oram, claimed in real terms the authority received pounds 12m less from the Government than three years ago, although pupil numbers had risen by almost 4,000 over the same period.

"We are one of the lowest funded counties in England and Wales and we just don't have the resources to give schools the amount of money they had three years ago," he said. "Hagley decided this was a realistic way forward and the idea met with a positive response."

The issue has divided parents in the middle-class village, near Kidderminster.

"I'm appalled to be honest," said a senior hospital biochemist, Steve Harper, who has one son at the school.

"We will pay it but it seems a bit of a cheek on top of all the other bills." Another parent, Jane Tandy, said: "I feel we were slightly blackmailed but we had to do it."