‘10 teachers to lose jobs‘

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NEARLY a quarter of the teaching staff at a Halifax school could be sacked as governors struggle to cut costs.

It was originally thought seven jobs might have to go at St Catherine’s Catholic High School but the number of redundancies has risen to 10, according to unions.

They say staff are paying the price for the school’s failure to tackle financial problems sooner and a drive to switch to academy status, which demands a balanced budget.

St Catherine’s, at Holmfield, Halifax, was last month issued with a Notice to Improve by Ofsted because student achievement, teaching quality and attendance are not up to scratch.

But the financial difficulties stem from a failure to reorganise staff after the sixth form closed last summer. The school has nearly 800 pupils and will lose the support of the Leeds Catholic Diocese when it becomes an academy.

Head teacher Patricia Sheard, recently praised by Ofsted for effective leadership in overcoming staffing difficulties, was unavailable for comment.

St Catherines is also involved in a council investigation about the way large sums of public money have been spent on the services of a single headteacher.

Calderdale Council Children and Young People Panel wants to know whether correct procedures were followed by Michael Wilkins and a private company he runs with two school governors and two other members of staff.

He is the country’s second highest paid headteacher, earning £182,000 a year as principal of Outward Grange academy, Wakefield, which is providing specialist advice and support to St Catherine’s.

Chairman of governors Tom Miskell said Outward Grange had provided an associate headteacher since last September. “His costs are met from the National Challenge Fund and for the excellent support provided, it has been money well spent,” he said.

But the Calderdale branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Sue McMahon, said: “When the school is making teachers redundant it is immoral that other schools, their heads, or executives at academy chains, should benefit. We have serious reservations about the impact Outwood Grange has had at St. Catherine’s.”