Head speaks out on education cuts

A North Yorkshire head teacher tells Mark Metcalf why he's angry that the government claims not to be cutting education

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The government’s claim to be protecting schools from cuts has been strongly criticised by a North Yorkshire headteacher. Tony Gavin, head of Laurence Jackson Secondary School in Guisborough, said he will have to make frontline staff cuts to balance his books despite the Chancellor George Osborne’s promise in his October budget of an increase in school funding.

Gavin, a teacher for three decades and head for eight years, also warns that the government’s highly publicised restoration of some sports partnership funding should not camouflage a cut of over 80 per cent in the overall budget.


Savings were always going to be needed after education secretary Michael Gove scrapped the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in the early days of the coalition. Gavin had spent a day a week over two years developing plans to improve facilities at the 50-year-old school and a £25 million deal was days away from being concluded when BSF was abandoned last July.

Gavin’s “devastation” also meant having to re-examine how to spend his £7.5m annual budget. The school has a leaking roof and asbestos that needs removing. Whether the funds must come from his own budget or the local authority is uncertain.

Gavin was “initially delighted” to hear Osborne, in his October budget, announce that between 2010 and 2014 the schools budget would rise “by 0.1 per cent in real terms, up from £35 to £39 billion”. Children’s education was to be protected, added Osborne.

But when Gavin then discovered part of the government’s £80 billion cuts package included scrapping the Schools Sports Partnership (SSP) funding stream that provides five hours of sport per pupil per week he was left “extremely angry”.

Maintain improvements

He remains so even after vigorous campaigning saw some sports funding restored at Christmas. Far from being a complete climbdown, the government has only restored £65 million of the total of £480 million of SSP funding.

Laurence Jackson Secondary School is the hub site for the East Cleveland SSP that employs a development manager, two sports coordinators and an administrator. Keeping the posts will mean cutting elsewhere.

Gavin hopes to maintain improvements at a school with children from a wide mix of backgrounds.
Last summer over 65 per cent of GCSE pupils left with five A to C grades, including English and maths. But he must attempt to do so with fewer classroom assistants, as they are being cut too.

“LJS could be £250,000 in debt by April and £2 million by 2013,” said Gavin.

Fewer staff

From 95 teachers he estimates having to lose three a year over four years, and six support staff a year from the current complement of 70.

“Teaching staff are already expressing concerns about increased class sizes, with significantly fewer support staff to assist with the challenging children,” said Gavin. “George Osborne’s statement was misleading by suggesting education is being protected.”

A Department for Education spokesperson disputed Gavin’s claim about Osborne. “The 0.1 per cent rise protects cash levels for every single pupil whilst striking a balance between cutting out unnecessary waste at the same time as protecting high-quality frontline services,” said the spokesperson.


The spokesperson also defended SSP cuts. “Having enjoyed some £2.4 billion of public funds since 2003 every school should have embedded good practice in order to maintain the current sports provision. We have restored some funding to assist schools raise participation levels and encourage competitive sport.”

But Gavin remained unconvinced. “Schools are not being protected from cuts and in sport I know schools are already cutting staff numbers.

“I want to retain the sports partnership activities we organise but faced with such a huge cut it will be very difficult.”

Photo: head teacher Tony Gavin says the government has been “misleading” on funding education

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