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700 teachers to go over funding

More than 700 teachers are facing redundancy at the end of this term because schools are running out of money, the BBC has found. Local authorities in England said they would be laying off 1,400 staff in total, the remainder coming as a result of falling pupil rolls. The findings contradict claims by ministers that it is primarily schools with declining pupil numbers that are set to suffer. Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more teachers are being lost without schools having to use redundancies.

'A crime'

"That will mean a far greater effect on children's education. There's always a price to pay and it will be pupils who suffer." But Education Secretary Charles Clarke said the findings showed a worst-case scenario. He added: "There is no doubt that there is real stress on some budgets and local authorities. But they are working closely with schools to ease this." For its survey, the BBC contacted 154 local authorities in England and asked how many teaching redundancies they anticipated for the next term.

Half of those who responded reported job losses caused by cash shortages. In total, this will mean 760 lay-offs. And 73% of councils said at least one of their schools would be submitting a deficit budget. The survey follows a row between the government and councils about a £500m shortfall in the money getting to head teachers.

Ministers blamed councils for holding funding back, while councils said they had not received it in the first place.

Some schools face a deficit of more than £200,000. Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "The cause of the situation is under funding. Local authorities have done the best they can to pass on money to schools." The government recently freed up some of their repairs budgets for day-to-day running costs, such as staffing. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "Charles Clarke has got to act now and put extra money into education.

"It would be a crime to let experienced teachers or any teachers go, given the quality of training they have. "This is going to be devastating for the teachers involved. It also means a loss in confidence in the government's promises on funding. That's going to be hard to restore." The government has provided an extra £2.7bn - or 11% - for education for 2003-4. But head teachers say this is not enough to cope with higher National Insurance and pension payments and pay awards. The net increase is estimated at £250m.