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A carry-forward helps planning

The report by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (The TES, January 19) argues that pupils are cheated when schools end the financial year with a carry-forward, and quotes 7.45 per cent average in primaries and 3.8 per cent average in secondaries.

Anyone dealing with accounts knows that the end of year statement is taken at a particular date though activities, developments, responsibilities do not neatly end or begin there. There must be a sense of continuity.

A "reserve" may be an indicator of caution, careful management, or forward planning. All schools need some reserve to deal with unexpected crises. This be-comes more critical as local education authority reserves dwindle.

We must be aware that 7.45 per cent for a primary is likely to be much less in real money than the average 3.8 per cent in a secondary. What is far more serious is that the overall secondary carry-forward has gone down by more than 9 per cent.

This may mean that secondaries fulfilled more development projects last year or (much more likely) that they spent more than their annual budget to cope with last year's costs and fortunately had a small reserve to call on.

The carry-forward is the only support for cross-year planning. Without it, teacher contracts would come and go with greater frequency. If only we had enough money for 8 per cent to be the norm.

DAVID OSBORNE (NAHT council member) Headteacher Hobart High School Norfolk

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