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SHEPHARD: SCHOOL FINANCES NOT AS BAD AS PORTRAYED

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As hundreds of parents, teachers and governors are expected to march in London today in a protest against school bu...
As hundreds of parents, teachers and governors are expected to march in London today in a protest against school budget cuts, education secretary Gillian Shephard told BBC Radio Four's Today programme the financial situation was not as bad as it had been made out to be.

Shadow education secretary David Blunkett told Today: 'The education system is on the verge of collapse, while Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown said the cuts were not only 'vandalising the system' but would also 'potentially place a blight on a whole generation of children'.

But Mrs Shephard told the programme there was 'a very varied picture over the country as a whole'.

Some councils had set budgets over caps but in many local authorities - such as Surrey, Cheshire, Cumbria, Hertfordshire and Essex - there are no problems and the teachers pay award has been fully funded, she said.

The settlement 'won't necessarily mean fewer teachers in every area', Mrs Shephard said.

'Over the country as a whole, with the exception of a handful of authorities, local authorities have done all they can to give priority to frontline services, that is, education'.

She said some parents had been made anxious by publicity and were worried about the position in schools next year rather than protesting about this year.

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