Sunday 20 September 2009

£2 billion cuts puts teachers' jobs, pay and pensions under threat

Ed Balls' announcement in today's Sunday Times 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.

Many teachers expect a Conservative administration to brandish the public spending axe but it was only yesterday that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, also warned of the need for 'savage' cuts and attacks on public sector pensions. Ed Balls' announcment confirms that, whoever forms the next Government, 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 working even according to Ball's 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 already 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 liasing 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 and parents can make the next Government think again.

Martin Powell-Davies

1 comment:

Derek McMillan said...

It is disgusting that Brown is cutting education spending by two billion to pay for weapons of mass destruction. Has he lost his moral compass down the back of the sofa?