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Books poor relation to exams

Secondary schools in England are spending two-and-a-half times as much on exam fees as they are on books.

The figures, from a TES study analysing how state schools in England spend pound;27 billion each year, have alarmed teachers' unions who say they illustrate the warped emphasis on national tests. Spending by primary and secondary schools on insurance and computer software has also soared since 2003 and now dwarfs spending on books.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said: "It is of deep concern to teachers that children may not be getting the opportunity to read books that could give them a genuine enthusiasm for stories."

He said the high spending by secondary schools on exam fees was a "chilling epitaph to the Tomlinson inquiry", which had recommended a reduction in tests faced by 14 to 19-year-olds, but was rejected by the Government.

Wales has abandoned national tests for 14-year-olds - the last compulsory ones were taken last summer. The Department for Education and Skills'

figures show that secondary schools alone spent pound;197 million on exam fees in 20045, more than a quarter more than two years previously.

In the same period, spending by primary and secondary schools on insurance rose by a quarter to pound;293m. The sharpest increase in school spending was on ICT learning resources, which only includes software and equipment for lessons and not computers fitted as part of new buildings. It increased by more than 50 per cent to pound;426.3m.

Education Publishers Council survey figures indicate that primary schools in England spent pound;70m on books while secondaries spend pound;80m.

Graham Taylor, director of educational publishing for the Publishers Association, said it had long been a concern that schools were "spending more on testing kids than giving them the reading material which would help them pass". A Keele university study has found that nearly half of secondary pupils have to share books in lessons.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the increase in spending on exam fees was a result of schools entering more pupils for AS exams and vocational qualifications like GNVQs.

"Exam fees are now one of the biggest expenditures for secondary schools after staffing because of our overbloated national testing system,"

he said. "There are many better things - including books - which schools could be spending their money on."

news 16-17

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