Councils avoid confrontation over school cuts

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Indy Politics
Governors and parents warned yesterday that the fight against education cuts is only just beginning, despite the failure of most councils to challenge Government spending limits.

As the deadline for councils to set their budgets passed, ministers were taking comfort from the fact that only five - Shropshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Newcastle upon Tyne - have agreed budgets above the limits, or cap.

But parents, governors and teachers prepared to campaign well into next year with a series of rallies, lobbies and surveys.

A protest today organised by the Campaign for State Education, a parents' pressure group, will emphasise that they expect teachers to be sacked and class sizes to grow.

A national lobby of Parliament organised by teacher unions and parents' groups is planned for 21 March and a mass rally for 25 March.

The Association of County Councils said the decision of most councils not to set budgets above the cap was unsurprising. David Whitbread, its under-secretary for education, said: "Councils are taking a desperate gamble if they set budgets above the cap."

They had to send out a set of council tax bills based on the first budget. If they failed to persuade the Government to raise their spending limit, they would have to send a second set at the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

He added that councils' budget decisions reflected their judgements about the chance of winning more money: it did not mean they had found enough cash to stop teachers being sacked or class sizes rising.

Simon Goodenough of the National Governors' Council said: "Governors are going to have to make cuts. Our survey is already revealing that they are desperate.

"As the summer term progresses, evidence will come through of the cuts that governing bodies are having to make. We intend to monitor increases in class sizes, teacher stress and teacher redundancies, he said.

"If we don't get extra money this year, we have laid the basis for the work of the next six months preparing for next year's campaign."