Headlines: September 21st, 2009

The Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls, has suggested shared management teams and joint procurement could be used to reduce costs.

Mr Balls has proposed cutting the schools budget by £2 billion, around 5% of the total. But he stressed the importance of preserving frontline teaching jobs. Instead he proposes cutting administrators, and senior school staff such as head teachers, deputies, assistant heads and heads of departments.

To do this, schools would be urged to join together in ‘federations’. The Children’s Secretary told the Sunday Times: “You might have a head teacher and a team of deputy heads working across the different schools, but we are not going to have larger class sizes.”

About 3,000 senior school jobs could be cut, mainly through “natural wastage”, saving the department about £250m a year. Meanwhile 300 civil servants employed to advise schools on the curriculum are also likely to go, saving £100m. Whitehall officials have also suggested that encouraging more joint procurement by schools could cut up to 10% of their spending on equipment, facilities, insurance and energy.

The proposals have split teaching unions, with NASUWT head Chris Keates backing the targeting of a “proliferation” of heads and deputies who worked as administrators not teachers. However, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has responded by suggesting that the flagship academies programme should be scrapped instead.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of The National Association of Head Teachers, said that the quantity of bureaucracy and regulations imposed on schools by the government had to stop if head teachers were to get away from “form-filling” to spend more time with children.

Mr Brookes said: “The impression he gives is that head teachers are among the ‘bureaucrats’ who can be replaced. We’re looking for him to get his own house in order before criticising school leadership.”