Mr Clarke should find the money to end this crisis

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The Independent Online

The teacher redundancy survey today by The Independent underlines the need for Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, to take a much firmer grip on the school funding crisis that is threatening thousands of pupils with poorer education provision from September. For the survey provides undeniable proof that the measures Mr Clarke has taken so far - such as allowing schools to spend capital money for building projects on teachers' wages - have, as David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says, been "merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic".

In fact, the underlying picture is much worse than the stark figure of nearly 1,000 teacher redundancies in education authorities suffering from shortfalls in their budgets. The survey showed that 40 per cent of councils were being forced to make redundancies because of budget problems. A further 30 per cent were also making redundancies as a result of falling pupil rolls, yet surely a Government that famously committed itself to education, education, education as its top three priorities should see that as an opportunity for reducing class sizes rather than introducing sackings, sackings and more sackings. Only nine authorities who responded to the survey felt they were at least as well off this year as they had been last year.

In the words of Damian Green, the Conservatives' education spokesman, there is an excuse for Mr Clarke in that he took charge of the Department for Education and Skills after the seeds for this year's funding crisis had been sown. Others, notably the civil servants who failed to apprise him of the impending state of affairs and his deputy, David Miliband, do not have such a handy get-out clause.

Mr Clarke is famous for blunt speaking and firm leadership. He needs now to grab the tiller and steer his department and the schools that depend on it into calmer waters. That means looking to the Treasury or the DfES's own reserves (said to amount to a £1bn underspend last year). Throwing money at problems in the public services is not always the right approach; but in this case an extra cash injection for schools is urgently needed.

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