Schools warned on budget threat

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The Independent Online
School governors will be warned today not to set deficit budgets in defiance of the Government's education cuts.

The National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers(NOEST), which represents 117 metropolitan and county councils, has refused to support the tactic being threatened in at least 11 counties.

A survey by the Independent revealed that the 10,000 redundancies predicted by Gillian Shepherd, the Secretary of State for Education, may well be reached as schools struggle to stay within budget.

School governors and parents are planning nationwide street protests over the cuts culminating in a mass demonstration outside Parliament.

But Graham Lane, chairman of NOEST, warned that local authorities would be forced to intervene and carry out any necessary cuts themselves, if governors flout regulations.

He said: "We cannot approve deficit budgets. If local authorities were to do so then the Government would step in and take away their powers."

He urged parents, governors and teachers to continue political pressure and to lobby the Government in other ways. The organisation will also call for the abolition of the teachers' pay review body which set the 2.7 per cent rise.

A meeting held in Rugby, Warwickshire, on Saturday to launch a national campaign of opposition was attended by 150 people. Another is planned in Birmingham this weekend.

A steering committee has been set up to co-ordinate action across the country. One of its first decisions was to set a date - 25 March - for a mass march through London. The night before the demonstration, organisers say, bonfires will be lit in every county.

Seamus Crowe, a head teacher from Bedworth, Warwickshire, and a founder of the anti-cuts campaign, said: "It will be a symbolic act against the danger threatening our schools."

Head teachers' leaders decided to recommend that members send children home rather than teach in overcrowded classrooms after the announcement that the Government would not fully fund the pay rise.

Mr Crowe added: "Over the next few weeks there will be protests throughout the country.The degree of feelings against these education cuts is unprecedented."

In the Independent survey, at least 11 local authorities warned there was a strong possibility that their governors would set deficit budgets and six were expecting governors to resign.