Jobs under threat as cash crisis deepens

BOSSES at a cash-strapped Camden secondary school have held a showdown meeting with parents to try to cool fears of a growing financial crisis

Ben McPartland

BOSSES at a cash-strapped Camden secondary school have held a showdown meeting with parents to try to cool fears of a growing financial crisis.

Governors and senior staff at William Ellis school met with parents last Thursday to announce a series of drastic measures aimed at reducing the secondary's £500,000 budget deficit.

Governors have revealed plans to save money by increasing class sizes and cutting staff.

The crisis has been made worse for the all-boys school because Camden Council has insisted the money must be repaid within the next two years.

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "Most of the parents here are worried about this. We thought everything was going fine. This has come out of the blue for most of us."

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At Thursday's meeting some parents offered to raise money themselves to try to dig the school out of trouble.

Among the measures announced is a plan to take an extra 15 pupils per year group in the lower school and an extra six students in the sixth form.

The number of classes in core subjects like English, maths and science will be cut from six to five, with more boys per class.

A sixth form business studies qualification will also be axed which will enable the school to get rid of two teachers and five learning mentors are set to be made redundant by April.

It is understood the crisis has come about because a former bursar, who has since been sacked, made an error in the budget.

Believing the school's new expensive heating system had already been paid for, the bursar encouraged departments to spend more money before realising the blunder.

The cuts have angered the National Union of Teachers (NUT) which says it will not back away from taking industrial action if necessary. Secretary of the Camden branch Andrew Baisley said: "We don't want to go down that route as we have a school here with troubles and the last thing it needs is more problems. We want the council to step in. We recognise it's not their fault but we know that those who are going to suffer most are the kids so we think the council should come to the rescue.

"The biggest issue is that they have to pay it back in two years. There is no underlying financial problem, but it is just this lump sum of money."

Schools chief Councillor Andrew Mennear said: "The school has to sort it out. There can't be long term financial help and we cannot cover a budget deficit of that size or expect other schools to shoulder it for them. That would not be fair."

Chairman of Governors Vernon King said: "'Parents were given an opportunity to discuss the repayment plan and wider budget issues with governors and the head teacher last week. The proposals have now been accepted by the local authority and we are now looking forward to working with parents and staff to ensure that they are implemented with the minimum disruption."