3:22pm Wednesday 9th April 2014
By Tom Edwards
MORE than 400 school support jobs at Worcestershire County Council face being privatised in a bid to save £1.9 million by 2017.
The Conservative leadership is meeting this week to endorse a controversial plan to save money by offering the service to outside bidders.
The move, which is likely to lead to job losses, has come about partly because of the rise in self-sufficient academies across Worcestershire.
The council's in-house learning and achievement service is set to be offered to the best bidder under a contract from April 2015.
Your Worcester News has been told talks have already taken place with several organisations see if there is interest in taking it on.
If the Tory cabinet backs the move on Thursday, it will be formally advertised from June.
There are 241 schools in Worcestershire but of those, 42 are now academies and more are likely to convert in 2014.
That means there is less work for the staff to do, and the council is now targeting it for savings.
The workers are given a host of vital roles including school improvement advice, admissions, property, post-16 engagement, nursery support and educational psychology.
The move to commission jobs out has been lambasted by the opposition Labour group, which says it is too risky.
Councillor Paul Denham, from the group, said: "When the private companies' profits are taken out, there is even less cash left to help our schools.
"I have seen no evidence that the quality of these services can be maintained if this goes ahead.
This is a strategy which puts our children's futures at unnecessary risk.
"The cabinet document talks about 'markets' but, as a former senior teacher, I believe schools are not companies - they are taxpayer-funded public services which ought to be left to concentrate on educating our children instead of having to negotiate with private service suppliers."
The council says 419 people work within the service, some part-time, but stresses it is too early to say what will happen to all the roles as it depends on the interest, whether it be from private firms or other organisations.
Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and families, said: "In recent years not only has the landscape around Worcestershire schools changed with greater variety, but our approach to supporting schools has changed from being very hands on with all to focusing on the most vulnerable.
"We now see a positive difference - educational outcomes are improving significantly for example there has been a year on year improvement in GCSE's in our schools.
"Worcestershire has risen to the top third of the national tables.
"This recommendation is the next chapter in our journey towards greater efficiency and further improvements for our children and young people."
© Copyright 2001-2015 Newsquest Media Group