School Cuts Wreck Our Future

SCHOOLS FACE their worst financial crisis for years. Edenham High School, in a relatively prosperous area of Croydon, south London hit the headlines last week. It sent 720 out of its 1,150 pupils home rather than spend money it didn’t have on employing supply teachers to cover staff shortages.

Another school in Croydon, Coulsdon High, is threatening staff cuts and is to go on a four and a half day week because of budget shortfalls.

Similar stories could soon emerge across the country – one press survey estimated that 3,000 teachers and hundreds of low-paid classroom assistants could lose their jobs due to this funding crisis.

Teachers, parents and school students wonder: what’s the situation going to be like come September? Some schools already face huge debts of around £200,000 as they struggle to fund increases in teacher’s pay, pensions and National Insurance.

Schools need an immediate injection of funds to stop sackings, but they also need a fundamental change in the priorities enforced by New Labour.

Britain’s schools have some of the worse pupil-teacher ratios in Europe, yet many teachers are still being forced out by too high a workload coupled with too low pay.

Some teachers’ workload will unfortunately go down to zero by redundancies but other teachers will have to work even harder – forcing more overworked staff to leave.

Many schools will try to balance their books by replacing qualified teachers with unqualified staff who they will try to pay far less. More school students will lose out.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference voted for a national boycott of the SATS tests. NUT members are willing to fight back with union action against New Labour’s attacks. Low-paid school support staff can be won over to a campaign which also addresses their concerns (see SATS tests: Clarke Fails To Stem Opposition).

Parents worry about education, with many involved in popular campaigns against shortages of secondary places for primary school leavers. They would certainly support union action if it was campaigned for and explained.

Class sizes are also a big issue for parents – head teachers warn that cash shortages could push class sizes back to 40 or more as they were in the 1950s.

The teachers’ unions should be preparing action and also campaigning for support from parents and local communities, who would suffer enormously from these shortages and cutbacks.