School budgets lead to hiring of younger staff

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The Independent Online
YOUNGER and less experienced teachers have been employed by schools in England and Wales since the schools were given their own budgets, according to the final report of HM Inspectors. They strongly urge a review of the present funding formula for teachers' salaries.

One secondary school appointed nine probationary teachers simultaneously while a large primary took on four. Another secondary school, faced with financial difficulties, appointed one probationer to each faculty, justifying the action as a way of keeping in touch with recent developments in training and teaching.

Some secondary schools were moving towards part-time and short-term contracts because they were uncertain about their future budgets, the inspectors said.

The report of the inspectorate, which has been replaced, said yesterday that staff welcomed the increased flexibility of Local Management of Schools (LMS) to carry out repairs, minor alterations and redecoration.

Teachers' morale had improved because they felt there was more money under their direct control, whether or not actual spending levels had risen. In fact, many schools have not been spending their full budgets, because of caution over the new system and uncertainty about future levels of funding.

Local management has given schools more control over their resources, as ministers promised at the time of the Education Reform Act in 1988, the report said. But it has not yet improved educational standards.

The inspectors warned that funding schools on the basis of average salary costs instead of their actual salaries bill meant that there was an incentive to employ fewer or cheaper staff.

The report, on the first three years of local management introduced in 1989, said that although headteachers insisted they were appointing the best applicants, there had been a tendency to appoint younger staff than previously. In all schools with static or declining pupil numbers the funding formula posed difficulties, according to the report, which is based on a large number of school visits and studies of 63 pilot schools introducing LMS. 'Many schools will be faced with hard choices, including possible job losses. This is bound to cause anxiety to many teachers.'

While many schools have seized the chance to manage larger incomes to their advantage in smartening up the premises and buying more equipment, smaller schools have found it difficult to manage, the inspectors found. They felt that schools were not on equal terms or equally well-placed to take advantage of local financial management.

'Headteachers and governors in schools serving disadvantaged areas or with substantial numbers of pupils with difficulties, including special needs, are anxious about their ability to attract and retain skilled and experienced staff. These concerns reinforce the desirability of the review of the average/actual position,' the report said.

The Implementation of Local Management of Schools; a report by HM Inspectorate 1989-92; HMSO; pounds 3.50.