Financial restrictions 'put 5,700 teaching jobs at risk'

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MORE THAN 5,700 teaching jobs in English schools are at risk, Stephen Byers, Labour MP for Wallsend, warned today.

He said that tight cash limits set by the Government on local authority spending would mean staff cuts and larger classes even if teachers' pay was restricted to a 1.5 per cent increase.

The pupil/teacher ratio worsened in 1992 for the second successive year and looks likely to do so again after a steady improvement since the 1960s. In addition to an increased percentage of 16-year-olds staying on, there has been a sharp rise in the number of five-year-olds who started school this autumn.

Mr Byers, former chairman of the Council of Local Education Authorities, based his figures for potential job losses on the local authority grant settlement.

He said that the 2.6 per cent increase in the Government's spending assessment for education next year was one of the smallest settlements - the police will get 4.4 per cent and social services 3.5 per cent. Derbyshire, with a shortfall of pounds 37m, has said 1,000 jobs will go.

However, decisions to cut teaching posts or make staff redundant will be made by school governors now that budgets have been delegated to them. Mr Byers said: 'The new year will start with the threat of redundancy hanging over many teachers.

'With most schools operating delegated budgets it will be for individual governing bodies to make difficult and painful decisions - class sizes will rise as teachers go.'

Most cuts will be made by not replacing staff as they resign or retire. Sackings for anything except misconduct have been unknown for many years.

However, for the first time teachers' organisations are bracing themselves for compulsory redundancies as schools seek to balance budgets. Teachers' salaries comprise 60 per cent of education spending and are by far the largest item on an individual school's budget.

The Government has also effectively switched funding from schools to sixth form and further education colleges.

The new Further Education Funding Council will have pounds 2.5bn to distribute from April when it takes over from local education authorities - a figure the authorities complained was far higher than their actual spending on colleges.

Mr Byers' predicted potential job losses are: Essex 179; Lancashire 171; Kent 170; Hampshire 166; Birmingham 133; Derbyshire 124; Nottinghamshire 122; Cheshire 116; Avon 107; Leeds 92; Cambridgeshire 78; Bradford 73; Liverpool 65; Manchester 62; Oxfordshire 59; Sheffield 59; Croydon 37; Barnet 35; Newcastle 34; Greenwich 32; Tower Hamlets 31.

Mr Byers said the Government was allowing councils to spend pounds 1.68bn - just pounds 42m more than they had spent this year.