30/05/2003

Education in cash crisis: Schools Minister called on to resign

Shadow Education Secretary Damian Green has called on Schools Minister David Miliband to consider his position after a survey showed that 700 teachers - and a similar number of teaching support staff - are facing redundancy as a result of a funding crisis.

Mr Green said that the BBC survey of local education authorities (LEAs) in England had revealed that 1,400 staff will be laid off at the end of the summer term, partly due to falling school rolls, but largely because of cash shortages hitting school budgets.

Deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, Martin Ward, said: "This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more teachers are being lost without schools having to use redundancies. That will mean a far greater effect on children's education."

The Shadow Minister described the new crisis facing education as "terrible and predictable". He said: "If teachers are being made redundant then David Miliband, the minister behind all this, must take responsibility. Teachers who find themselves without a job will rightly ask why Mr Miliband should keep his."

Mr Green said the cash problems facing schools were not a recent development. "The Government has known about this for months,” he said, “yet it is extraordinary that ministers will not only admit responsibility but have done nothing about it. They are just sitting there - as we reach the crunch point. The Government's irresponsibility has left teachers and parents angry and bewildered.”

Mr Green said that in the short term, the Government should release around £1 billion worth of unallocated resources to help deal with the crisis.

However, the Government has denied that MPs were misled over the schools funding crisis. Reports that up to 3,000 jobs were under treat were rubbished, but it has transpired that an email sent to the LEAs from the Department of Education has conceded that the redundancy figure could not yet be assessed “with certainty”.

Teachers in England and Wales are anxiously waiting to hear today how many of them are to be made redundant, but the final figures will only be known when individual head teachers complete their budget making decisions for the next school year.

A poll conducted by the BBC indicated that around half of the local education authorities were planning to make reductions in the numbers of teachers as pupil numbers declined.

(SP)

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