Pay eats into schools cash

27 May 99
The government has admitted that half this year's funding increase for education will be swallowed up by the teachers' pay rise, leaving much less than expected for other improvements.

28 May 1999

The admission comes in an unpublished letter from schools standards minister Estelle Morris to Graham Lane, the chairman of the schoolteachers' Employers Organisation. It casts doubt on the government's claim of substantial spending increases for schools.

Ministers, including Education Secretary David Blunkett, have repeatedly claimed that the government is increasing education funding by more than £1bn in 1999/2000.

Lane, who is also chairman of the Local Government Association's education committee, said the letter proved that local authorities had got their sums right and that there was little money left to fund efforts to improve standards in the classroom.

Morris's letter, sent earlier this month, says of this year's settlement: 'Pay costs were expected to rise by about £540m, including the overhang, in 1999/2000 within an increase in SSAs (standard spending assessments) of £1.1bn. If we assume… that authorities continue to budget at the same level relative to SSAs, that leaves £560m headroom for other pressures.'

In addition, the letter admits that the award of a 6.5% rise to primary heads could push the overall pay increase in authorities with a high proportion of small primary schools to 3.9% in 2000/2001.

According to Lane, after inflationary pressures, the increase would be only £100m–£200m. He said: 'The trouble is that a lot of people, in particular head teachers, still think there is a lot of money around and there is not.'

The argument over education funding also threatens to engulf the government's plans for introducing performance-related pay for classroom teachers. At the end of last year, Blunkett announced that this would be carried through by the injection of an additional £1bn over a two-year period from 2000.

But the employers fear that part of this sum will now be used to finance next year's pay rise, and have written to Morris for clarification.


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