Around 70 per cent of the 311 primary and middle school heads who replied to the questionnaire nominated classroomwelfare assistants as one of their top priorities should they receive a 5 per cent increase in the budget. Government figures show classroom support staff in primary schools have already grown from 32,480 in 1992 to 50,644 in 1996.
In previous years (the surveys began in 1994), the majority of heads have said they would prefer extra teachers. In this survey, only 60 per cent chose this option.
Around 40 per cent of headteachers nominated textbooks and teaching materials, a slight increase over previous years.
The survey also shows that the proportion of heads expressing concern about changes in the curriculum has risen from 15 per cent to 41 per cent. According to the NFER, the increase probably reflects anxieties about the new literacy and numeracy strategies.
As in previous years, budgets were the top priority for the majority of heads (70 per cent).
School inspections have become less of an issue - a major concern for only a quarter of heads, compared with 43 per cent in 1994.
The NFER questionnaire was completed in autumn 1997.