Unions claim hundreds of Lancashire teaching jobs will go in next four years

School children in a classroom

School children in a classroom

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HUNDREDS of teachers could be lost from schools across Lancashire over the next four years, trade unions have claimed.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and ATL Education Union estimate a shortfall in government funding could see 1,596 fewer teachers in the county by 2020.

They believe frozen yearly budgets will equate to cuts worth around £65m in Lancashire, and have called for more cash to be pumped into education before teachers are laid off.

Simon Jones, Lancashire’s national executive member for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “No head teacher should be put in the position of increasing class sizes, leaving building repairs undone or cutting staff and resources simply to balance the books.

“Nor should any parent accept this for their child. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We can and we should be funding our schools properly.”

But a Department for Education spokesman said the NUT and ATL’s report appeared to be “irresponsible scaremongering” and based on “entirely speculative” figures.The NUT and ATL say teaching conditions are worsening and pupils numbers are rising and have asked for education funding to be protected.

Labour County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, responsible for schools run by the county council, said: “With the current government’s track record, it’s hard to believe the new funding will mean there’s extra money for schools, but until the details come out it’s difficult to comment.

“But I recognise lots of schools are very nervous about the changes that are coming.”

The government had planned to introduce its new ‘national funding formula’, which it said would end historic disparity between authorities, next year, but recently pushed it back to 2018/19.

Until then, schools will still be funded through a local formula set by their local authority, though education secretary Justine Greening told councils they won’t see funding reduced next year.

The county council currently keeps back some of the funding it receives from the government in order to help smaller schools who have a particularly small intake, which reduces funding given for ‘bums on seats’.

The changes would put an end to that, and would simply be the ‘redistribution of an inadequately sized cake’, according to the NUT’s regional secretary for the north west, Peter Middleman.

And Mr Middleman was one of many at the NUT keeping a close eye on Wednesday’s financial Autumn Statement from Chancellor Phillip Hammond.

Mr Jones, Lancashire’s national executive member for the National Union of Teachers, said: “The Chancellor’s statement is a huge disappointment for schools and colleges. We desperately need a significant increase in education funding to protect schools and colleges against the impact of inflation and the higher pension and national insurance costs being imposed by the Government.

“The Government is not protecting education funding – it remains on course to inflict significant real terms cuts. Schools and colleges are already being hit, with job cuts and increasing class sizes. Teacher pay and conditions remain under attack, even as the recruitment and retention crisis intensifies and pupil numbers continue to rise.” And headteachers said it was “disappointing” that the Chancellor’s Statement failed to address funding pressures faced by many schools and colleges across England.

The Chancellor did, however, confirm a £50m pot of money to support the expansion of grammar schools.

Mr Hammond told MPs on Wednesday: “The government’s education reforms have raised standards and expanded opportunity, with 1.4 million more children now in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools.

“And the new capital funding I have provided today for grammar schools will help to continue that trend.”

One Lancashire teacher said education needs all the help it can get.

He said: “Class sizes are already too big in my opinion and classroom assistants are few and far between.

“The workload is overpowering for my colleagues and myself so to think there could be less of us in years to come is frightening. Doing our job to the best of our ability is already difficult enough so if these estimates come true we’ll be in real trouble.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “We know that school budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point.

“Freezing budgets at a time of rising costs is no protection at all. The government has the levers to address rising costs, but has again failed to pull them. Capital investment in grammar schools is the wrong priority, and a distraction from the most important issues in education.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The NUT and ATL’s report would appear to be irresponsible scaremongering, based on figures that are entirely speculative.

“In reality the schools budget has been protected and in 2016-17 totals over £40bn, the highest ever on record.

“The government’s fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system.”

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