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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 September 2009

Defend education - stop the 2 billion cuts in spending

ED BALLS' announcement of Labour's plans to impose 2 billion of cuts - 5% of the total schools budget - spells out the onslaught that all the main parties plan to unleash on teachers and schools after the next general election.

Martin Powell-Davies, (candidate for the NUT teachers' union vice-president post)

Many teachers expect a Tory administration to brandish the public spending axe but Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, also warned of the need for 'savage' cuts and attacks on public sector pensions. All the mainstream politicians want teachers and school students to pay for their economic mistakes.

Schools spend most of their budget on staff, so 5% cuts can only mean one thing - significant job losses and pay cuts. But schools are already understaffed in reality - that's why most teachers already work a 50-hour week even according to Balls' own official figures. Cutting posts will mean inflicting even greater workload on the staff that are left. Education is bound to suffer as a result.

Where does Balls expect schools to be able to make these cuts? His talk of cutting back on 'bureaucrats' is the kind of nonsense that civil service unions have had to put up with.

Most senior staff and heads of faculty are already run ragged trying to keep on top of the demands inflicted on schools by the government's testing and targets regime, not sitting in an office twiddling their thumbs!

Of course, if Ed Balls genuinely wanted to 'cut bureaucracy' without harming education, he could start by abolishing Ofsted and SATs, but he won't because they are both key parts of his government's bullying machinery.

Ed Balls even has the cheek to suggest that another part of his agenda - setting up 'Federations' (often as unaccountable Trusts designed to break up local authority schooling) can help make the required savings. In fact, Federations usually increase bureaucracy - introducing an extra layer of 'Executive Heads' on top of existing structures.

But Balls imagines that Federations can cut posts and make staff take on roles across several schools. The idea that, say, a head of maths in one school can rush around supporting staff and students across a whole Federation, certainly without anyone filling in for the work left behind, is nonsense.

At least we have been warned. Teachers and their unions know what is coming. Now we have to prepare an urgent defence of teachers and education. Teaching and other public sector unions need to be liaising immediately to prepare a campaign of national action to defend pay, pensions and jobs.

We need to reach out to our communities to explain what is at stake. A united campaign of staff, parents and students, can make the next government think again.

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In The Socialist 22 September 2009:

No cuts in public services

Prepare political challenge to cuts agenda


Higher education - cuts cuts cuts!

Universities in crisis - Join Socialist Students

Defend education - stop the 2 billion cuts in spending


Brown declares war on workers

TUC congress: Anger on the fringes, inaction at the top

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