Merton School Improvement Officers Could Be Axed

Labour claim education being hit by council cuts

Half of Merton's school improvement officers are set to be laid off as part of £2.3m worth of council cutbacks.

The cuts could also mean a reduction in support to the Merton Music Foundation and councillors are calling for urgent discussions to see if the funding can continue.

Councillor Peter Walker, Labour's cabinet member of education, said last week Secretary of State Michael Gove also cut funding for the School Sports Partnership and the "Every Child a Reader" scheme in Merton.

He said: "Government imposed cuts mean that we have reduce our budget for 2010-2011 by £2.3m.

"In our first round of reductions for next year we are discussing having to cut our spending on our school improvement team, with possibly half being laid off. The result will mean having little if any ability to help secondary schools in the borough improve their educational performance where they are currently under performing.

"Second we have to investigate if we can continue funding the Merton Music Foundation. At present this charity does outstanding work in the borough. It provides music education in over 90% of the borough's state Primary, Secondary and Special schools.

"For this reason I am asking for urgent discussions with the Foundation and officers in the education department to see if this essential work with our children can continue.

"It is my duty as a publicly elected individual to draw to the attention of parents and electors the full detail of what the Coalition government are inflicting. Their cuts announced in the last few days to the School Sports Partnership means that the support schools get to ensure that all children receive adequate sport each week will no longer be provided.

"As bad is the cut to the reading programme which provides support to schools where pupils are in need of urgent help to improve reading standards. This will directly affect over a dozen schools in Merton."

But Councillor Richard Hilton, Conservative Education Spokesman, said: "Under the Coalition Government spending on schools will increase year on year. Peter Walker seems to forget that it is the last Labour government's mismanagement of the nation's finances that is to blame for local government spending cuts.

"The Government has removed ring-fenced budgets so it is up to the council to decide what services to prioritise. The minority Labour administration here in Merton is responsible for deciding where these cuts will fall locally. Unfortunately they are focusing their cuts on our schools and young people."

He said the previous Tory-run council had protected funding for the Merton Music Foundation and said Conservatives were "very concerned" about resources now being withdrawn.

On the School Sports Partnerships, he added: "The Government has been clear that it is not closing down School Sport Partnerships. Instead headteachers will decide what is right for their pupils. This seems a very sensible approach."

November 9, 2010