Cash to enrich primary schools

But the money has conditions attached, writes Adam Jezard.

A "typical primary school" will receive an extra pound;10,000 under a "historic" pound;15 billion spend on education. Direct payments to primaries will now rise to at least pound;50,000. Announced as part of the Government's financial review in July, details of how primaries will benefit were largely buried under plans for secondaries to "transform" into specialist schools. But, while the main thrust of Education Secretary Estelle Morris's Investment for Reform document is aimed at the secondary sector, she has pledged to "make further investment to strengthen the impact of the literacy and numeracy strategies, particularly with the 25 per cent of pupils who are still not achieving the expected standards for their age" at primary level.

She also promised Labour would "enrich the primary curriculum in music, sport and the arts and encourage the teaching of languages", so aiming to fulfil earlier pledges that the curriculum for five-to-11s would become more "broad and balanced" following the sustained push to improve numeracy and literacy standards.

Ms Morris and her colleagues are sticking to their demands that, by 2004, 85 per cent of 11-year-olds should pass the national tests at level 4 or above and 35 per cent should reach level 5 or higher. The Education Secretary wants these levels of performance sustained until 2006, by which time she hopes that schools in which "fewer than 65 per cent of pupils achieve level 4 or above will be significantly reduced".

Ms Morris has made it clear that schools will receive the additional funding only if they accept the Government's outlined reforms, which include a greater role for teaching assistants. There is increased pressure for governors to sack underperforming heads and recruit additional administrative staff to cut teacher workload to qualify for some grants.

The National Association of Head Teachers dismissed threats to sack heads as "rhetoric" and added: "By these standards the jury is out on whether the Comprehensive Spending Review really will give all heads the money they need to transform standards by the time of the next election."

Teachers may be offered a three-year pay deal from 2003. The move, mooted by Ms Morris in a letter to the School Teachers' Review Body, has been widely seen as a government bid to forestall industrial action over pay in the run-up to the next election, though the letter seems to indicate Ms Morris wants fewer teachers to reach the pound;32,000 top of the teachers'

pay spine.

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