Art and drama teachers and those who teach vocational subjects are first in line to be sacked, as many headteachers are axeing subjects which do not qualify for the Coalition's highly academic flagship "English Baccalaureate".
As many as a dozen schools a day are calling a 24-hour hotline to ask for advice on redundancy threats brought about by the squeeze on public spending.
Richard Bird, the Association of School and College Leaders' legal specialist, said: "We haven't had to do this sort of thing since Kenneth Clarke was Chancellor of the Exchequer 15 years ago. Many headteachers have never had to face a redundancy situation."
Some schools have already been forced to issue protective redundancy notices to staff, it emerged at the association's conference in Manchester at the weekend. In one case, a secondary school is axeing 20 out of 100 staff. The redundancies are split equally between the staff. In a second school, 15 staff face the axe – almost all of them teachers.
Brian Lightman, the association's general secretary, said: "It is an unprecedented time for heads. In many schools, while there have been redundancies in the past, it hasn't been on this kind of scale."
The threat posed by the new English Baccalaureate – under which schools are measured on the percentage of pupils getting five A* to C grades including maths, English, a language, a science and a humanity – is also likely to emerge this term. Schools are restructuring their timetables, axeing such subjects as vocational studies and arts and music which do not qualify for it.
"If you have plunged deeply into the sort of vocational studies Michael Gove [the Education Secretary] says shouldn't be done, you're going to try to restructure," Mr Bird added. "It will inevitably create redundancies because that subject is no longer taught."
Headteachers are being told they should "dust down" redundancy policies that they may not have used for years. Mr Gove has said the Coalition will protect frontline education services. However, its decision to award an extra £430 to schools for every child on free school meals has meant some schools will face cuts to pay for it.
The jobs threat comes only 10 days after the publication of a government review of vocational education which recommended that 14 to 16-year-olds should spend only 20 per cent of their timetable on vocational subjects.
Its author, Professor Alison Wolf, of King's College London, said 350,000 youngsters were studying for "dead end" qualifications because of the pressure to do well in league tables. But teachers' leaders have called for a review of the English Baccalaureate, arguing that it offers "too narrow" a curriculum and is a throwback to the 1950s. Research by Sue Hallam, of London University's Institute for Education, showed that youngsters who studied music often did better in other subjects.
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