CAMPAIGNING headteachers will march to Downing Street to protest against what they say are crippling Government cuts which have forced them to lay off staff.

A number of headteachers from schools in Colchester will take part in “unprecedented” mass action next Friday.

Alan Garnett, headteacher at North Primary School, is among them and said next year’s school budget has a £100,000 shortfall.

Despite the school making savings and finding ways to increase income over the last year - including not replacing some staff who left last term - it is being forced to make learning support staff redundant.

The redundancy procedures have started, taking effect from May 2019.

Mr Garnett said: “Turning off light switches and re-negotiating photocopier contracts will not balance my budget.

“The next few years are likely to be the most challenging yet.

“My greatest fear is that everything I have worked for at this school with an amazing team of dedicated colleagues is under threat.

“To those who say I should be in school, working, not marching on Downing Street I say this: ‘If this action leads to a change in Government Policy, and the funding crisis in education is averted, then it will be the best day’s work I have ever done’.”

Mr Garnett described telling “excellent” staff they faced redundancy as “a deeply distressing task” and the process was “deeply upsetting”.

Parents were told in a letter in which he wrote: “The positivity of the staff has been tempered by a significant problem that we and other schools face. And that problem is future school funding.”

The school’s £100,000 shortfall is about 8 per cent of its annual budget.

Mr Garnett said many other schools in the area are not replacing staff when they leave and others have cut support staff hours.

The march, in support of the campaign group Worth Less?, will involve 1,000 head teachers from schools across the country who will gather at Parliament Square and then present a letter to the Chancellor.

Mr Garnett, the school’s head for 18 years, said the letter will spell out the impact on schools in real terms of shrinking budgets.

He said: “This is not news to the government,” he said.

“The National Audit Office warned government in 2016 that by 2020 school budgets will be eight per cent short of what they need.

“The latest analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies supports this argument. It found that between 2009-10 and 2017-18, total school spending per pupil in England fell by about eight per cent in real terms.

“Ministers’ responses are disingenuous.” They ignore these reports from independent, august organisations and blithely state that there is more money in education now and schools can manage by making savings.”

Worth Less? campaign group described Friday’s mass action as “unprecedented” and says it is to raise continuing concerns relating to school funding and teacher recruitment and retention.

Bridget Harris, headteacher at St Thomas More’s Catholic Primary School, Colchester, added: “I haven’t got any redundancies so far as this is the first year of the cuts, so we can balance the books but If it continues at the current rate we would go into a deficit budget several years down the line.

“It would mean cutting hours for learning support staff. It will be the children who are affected and the most vulnerable children.” The ones that need that extra support with their learning.

“The deficit could be several years down the line but for next year we would have to think about tightening extra things we do for the children - such as resources and Ipads. Things that enhance their learning will be the first to go.”

Clare French, head teacher at Kendall Primary School, Colchester, said: “It’s tragic that our government doesn’t value our education system. As the leaders of one of the richest nations in the world, I simply do not understand why they do not see fit to invest in the education of our young people who are the future of our country.”