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Schools facing four-day week?

CLLR PAUL CARTER: "...clear that the implications for Kent schools are, frankly, horrible"
CLLR PAUL CARTER: "...clear that the implications for Kent schools are, frankly, horrible"

SCHOOLS in Kent may have to shed hundreds of staff or be reduced to opening only four days a week if Government funding is not increased next year, according to education chiefs.

Heads of all the county's schools are being urged to lobby their MPs about the county's shortfall of about £22million.

The Kent Schools Funding Forum has written to schools asking them to write to their MP and Schools Minister David Milliband within the next five days, before the Department for Education and Skills sets its budget

The forum was set up by the Government earlier this year and consists of 11 head teachers and governors who represent each different type of school, Cllr Paul Carter, KCC's cabinet member for education standards, one union representative, one church representative and one parent representative.

Its chairman, Hadrian Southorn, a governor at Castle Community School, Deal, and South Deal Primary School, said: "The county had about £31million in reserves. At least £16million of that has had to be used to bolster schools to avoid them going into deficit."

Several schools are in the red already because of the Government's re-allocation of funds from the South East to the North of England, coupled with a rise in National Insurance contributions.

The forum's appeal follows its commissioning of an independent study, published by Price Waterhouse Coopers. Mr Southorn said: "If the Government doesn't change its position, there are three alternatives.

"One is that council tax would have to go up to cover the schools budget, or it would mean that you would have to rob the other services' budgets, like social services, the fire service and police.

"But you can't cut them back any further - the alternative is to reduce the number of staff and therefore increase the number of pupils in classes."

Sue Glanville, head teacher at Invicta Grammar School for Girls, Maidstone, and a member of the forum's executive, said: "I am just hoping that the Government will review its spending plan now they know the seriousness of our situation."

Cllr Carter, said 39 teachers had been made redundant this year because of the crisis.

About 80 full-time posts in the council's education support service had also been cut, he added.

Cllr Carter stressed: "It's very clear that the implications for Kent schools are, frankly, horrible." He added that it was unacceptable to raise council tax by four or five per cent to cover the shortfall.

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