Head of Major's school `despairs' at budget cut

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The Independent Online
JOHN Major's old school is facing a budget cut of £200,000 and the loss of several teachers; and schools attended by several other members of the cabinet will also lose money this year as government spending restrictions bite.

Kenneth Clarke's old primary school is facing a budget cut of almost 5 per cent, while Gillian Shephard's school - now a sixth form college - will lose £75,000 despite having already made three staff redundant.

But the greatest anger and dismay has been sparked at the Prime Minister's Alma Mater, Rutlish School in Merton, South London. Its budget has been cut by almost 10 per cent from £2.15m to £1.95m. The 900-pupil boys' comprehensive has £30,000 in its reserves, and between 50 and 60 extra pupils starting in September will bring an extra £55,000 to £60,000, but it will still have to cut £115,000 from its spending.

Tony Mooney, the head teacher, said class sizes would have to rise. "I am beginning to despair of the education system in this country," he said.

"The Government is blaming local government and vice versa, and in between them, on the firing line, is the education of our youngsters."

Most of the cuts have been made because local authorities are unable to fund the gap between a 1.1 per cent rise in their budgets and a 2.7 per cent teachers' pay settlement. But colleges, which are now outside local government, have also been hit.

Paston Sixth Form College in Norfolk, which was North Walsham Girls' High School when the Education Secretary, Gillian Shephard, went there, will have its budget cut by 5 per cent.

The principal, Mollie Whitworth, said the college's students had attained a 92 per cent pass rate at A-Level last year even though it had lost four staff, three of whom were made redundant. "We do not feel that it is possible to continue to make cuts of this sort and still maintain quality," she said.

Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, went to Langley Mill Primary School, which is in Derbyshire despite being on the outskirts of Nottingham. It is facing a cut of 4.8 per cent next year, and its head teacher, Jean Thomas, says there will have to be staff cuts. Its average class size has risen from 26 in 1990 to between 37 and 38 this year.

She has written to Mr Major and Mrs Shephard to complain about the underfunding of primary schools, but not to Mr Clarke. "I think our feeling was it would not have been received favourably," she said.

"There is a need for extra resources. If we had even £100 more per pupil we could achieve so much more."

The school which Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, used to attend, is being closed down. The Graig School, which used to be Llanelli Grammar, is being turned into a sixth form college because the area is moving to a tertiary system, and it has not taken in any new pupils for the past two years.

But in Northern Ireland, where the Transport Secretary Brian Mawhinney went to school, schools have suffered less than here. The Royal Belfast Academical Institution, a voluntary grammar school which receives 80 per cent of its funds from the state, will have an increase of between four and five per cent.

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