Repairs cash to save teachers' jobs

Schools are to be given greater flexibility in their budgets to avoid having to make teachers redundant, Education Secretary Charles Clarke has announced.

Headteachers are to be allowed to use money set aside for maintenance and repairs of school buildings to pay staff and buy books and equipment, he said.

The announcement is designed to stave off a funding crisis which has seen schools across the country warn that they were running short of cash, because teacher salaries and other expenses were going up faster than their income.

Mr Clarke has claimed that local education authorities have failed to pass on more than £500 million of Government money to schools, but they insisted that they had been forced to hold back large sums to pay for other responsibilities.

The Education Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that today's announcement meant headteachers would have access to more money to meet their immediate spending requirements, although no new money was being provided for this year.

"We are giving more flexibility to spend money which has been allocated to schools for devolved capital on other things and that is a significant access to extra resources," he said.

"LEAs are already allocating some of the money they have held in central budgets directly to schools, so that is extra money too."

Mr Clarke said that he would be making an announcement to bring greater "clarity" to the school budgets for 2004-05 in order to prevent a repeat of this year's problems.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of NASUWT, said: "We obviously welcome his decision to allow schools to use their building fund to deal with that problem."

Mr O'Kane said his union believed the number of schools which would have to dip into their building fund was very small.

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