The National Union of Teachers (NUT) hit back yesterday at Education Secretary Ed Balls over his call to sack thousands of school heads and deputy heads and heads of departments, as part of plans to cut spending by £2bn.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower told News Line: ‘Any characterisation of heads, deputy heads or even heads of departments as bureaucrats is nonsense.
‘These people are teachers.
‘Federations between schools may be a good idea but it must not be required as a way to make cuts.
‘Where we could make savings is to scrap the Academies programme with its extremely costly buildings and heads who are paid bonuses.’
Education Secretary Balls, who has become the first secretary of state to name his cost-cutting plans, told the ‘Sunday Times’ c one option to achieve a £2bn cut was to merge comprehensives to form ‘federations’.
In the interview, he spoke of comprehensives merging to form ‘federations’, so a head teacher and a team of deputies would work across the different schools.
He estimated this could save the department about £500m a year.
Another £250m could be saved by losing about 3,000 senior school jobs, mainly through ‘natural wastage’, he added.
It is also likely more than 300 jobs in Whitehall which involve advising schools about the curriculum could go, he said.
He claimed there are no plans to cut the number of teachers and teaching assistants, but said cuts could be made in the number of ‘bureaucrats’ and senior staff, without the quality of teaching suffering.
But Balls went on to warn of post-general election pay cuts, saying: ‘It is going to be tougher on spending over the next few years.
‘If we are going to keep teachers and teaching assistants on the front line, that means we are going to have to be disciplined on public sector pay, including in education.’
He said he planned to make sure wage rises are kept low in the next three-year deal, starting in 2011.
He claimed he had no plans to increase class sizes or lose front-line staff.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is calling for ‘savage’ cuts in public spending and is considering dropping the party’s commitment to scrap university tuition fees in order to save £2.5bn.
Clegg said that although he thought tuition fees were ‘pernicious’, scrapping them may not be affordable in the current climate.
He confirmed that the Liberal Democrats want to cut the number of MPs from nearly 646 to 500.
He set out plans to ‘cut the cost of politics’ by nearly £2bn, including closing ten government departments and 90 quangos, axing spin doctors and no longer paying the Opposition leader’s wages out of the public purse.
Clegg denied he is touting for a place in a national government in the wake of Tory leader Cameron’s call for the Liberal Democrats to join the Tories in a new ‘national movement’, claiming there is ‘barely a cigarette paper’ between them on many issues.