Call for help over schools cash crisis

A SENIOR headteacher in Essex has called for emergency Government measures to avert a looming crisis in the county's cash-strapped schools.Fears that pupils will be hit by teacher redundancies and other cost-cutting measures grew yesterday as schools struggled to cope with "serious miscalculations" in Government funding formulae.

A SENIOR headteacher in Essex has called for emergency Government measures to avert a looming crisis in the county's cash-strapped schools.

Fears that pupils will be hit by teacher redundancies and other cost-cutting measures grew yesterday as schools struggled to cope with "serious miscalculations" in Government funding formulae.

With some secondary schools having to run budget deficits of up to £500,000 in the current financial year, unions, headteachers and Essex County Council united in blaming Education Secretary Charles Clarke for the situation.

Mr Clarke had suggested the county was holding back more than £21 million in funds from schools, but Stephen Wyatt, chairman of the Association of Secondary Heads in Essex, said this was a misrepresentation of the facts.


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Mr Wyatt, who is also headteacher at Alec Hunter High School in Braintree, said: "I would accept the council's assertion that it is not holding back more money than it normally does, but that doesn't explain why so many schools are in grave difficulty.

"The Government have not taken all the extra costs of rises in teachers' pay into account. We need them to release emergency funds for our schools – what we have now is simply not adequate.

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"It could mean redundancies across the county. Although there won't be at my school, we have increased pupil numbers and that would normally mean extra teachers.

"But now, there will just be increased strain on existing teachers and cut-backs in terms of training and other things like text books. Pupils will be hit - it's a very difficult situation which the Government needs to address."

Defending Essex County Council, cabinet member for children's services and schools, Iris Pummell, said Essex had not even received part of the money Mr Clarke had said it was it of holding back.

She said: "We're still waiting for £7 million earmarked for IT, and most of the rest will be allocated - as happens every year – in September, when we know the hike in the new school student numbers.

"I'm very worried for our schools and our children."

Jerry Glazier, general secretary of the Essex branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: "It's an Alice in Wonderland situation. There has been a serious error by the Government and they need review it."

Education bosses at County Hall are expecting £70 million of cuts in the next three years, due to the Government's abolition of standards funds grants and its reworking of the formula used to give local authorities money, which has saved millions of pounds off the income for Essex.

Colchester MP Bob Russell has tabled an urgent Written Question asking Mr Clarke to hold a meeting at the earliest possible date with the education authority and school heads.

Mr Russell's formal Parliamentary Question follows a personal letter he wrote to Mr Clarke saying he had received a number of letters from teachers, governors and parents concerned over the lack of funding for their schools.

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