Parents told: Pay £1 or see teacher sacked

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The Independent Online

Education Correspondent

Parents at a primary school near Northampton have been told that they must pay £1 a week for each of their children or see a teacher made redundant.

Governors at Welford and Sulby Endowed School say they cannot cover a £7,500 budget shortfall unless parents agree to make regular voluntary contributions.

The move comes in the wake of nationwide protests from schools all over the country which are facing cuts after ministers refused to fund the teachers' 2.7 per cent pay rise. The governors at some schools have refused to set legal budgets this year and others have resigned in protest.

At Welford and Sulby, a small village school with just 100 pupils, parents were told at a meeting this week that an "extremely serious" situation meant the school could not keep all its staff on without their help.

Although state education must be free by law, parents have been asked to make voluntary contributions towards the cost of lunch-time supervision for their children. If sufficient pledges are not made by next week a teacher will have to go, they have been told.

A part-time teacher due to leave this summer is not being replaced, but staff numbers will have to be reduced by a further half-time teacher if the money is not found.

In addition to this measure, the school association, which usually raises money for non-essential items, will be asked to find £1,500. The school will also have to manage without extra help if any of its teachers fall ill in the next year.

Rev Richard Cattle, the chairman of governors, said the situation would have been much worse if it had not been for £8,500 which had been saved from last year's budget.

"We only have £20,000 for non-staff costs, and £3,500 of that has to go back to the local authority in rates. We decided to share our problem with parents and they were virtually unanimous in saying that they would support the school financially. Some said they would give even more money," he said.

Dr David Roberts, who has two children at the school, said some parents would refuse to pay though he thought he would probably agree to contribute.

"On principle I don't like it. I think it is something the Department for Education or the local authority should be paying. I don't mind putting in for the things that parent-teacher associations do, but when it is for something as fundamental as this I think things are coming to a pretty pass," he said.

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, blamed ministers for the crisis and added that they should have recognised its gravity during a parliamentary debate on education this week.

"The government has passed the buck for teachers' pay directly to parents in this case. What is happening here shows that the Tory complacency in the Commons this week was far removed from reality," he said.