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Grandparents are tapped for funds

Odd jobs for grandparents, shoe cleaning and washing-up: these are just some of the tasks children at an Oxfordshire primary will do this Christmas as they make themselves useful and raise money for their school at the same time.

For it is all hands on deck as Shrivenham Primary School faces a cut of 10 per cent in next year's budget.

While parents lobby ministers, raise money through sales and raffles, the 179 pupils - aged five to 11 - will be collecting their own cash contributions.

Each aims to fill a Smartie tube with 20 pence pieces, the (full) tube of sweets having previously been given to them as a Christmas present by governors.

Peter Causer, Shrivenham's headteacher, is anxious that they do not just ask their parents for the cash.

"We're asking them to think about how they could help Mum and Dad do things over Christmas, about little jobs they could do for Granny," he said.

In the New Year the children will also be learning 100 new words for a sponsored spell.

Shrivenham had a Pounds 16,000 cut in its budget this year and now has no savings. Cash spent on repairs, renovations and replacing equipment has been pared to the bone.

Its parents and teachers association raises an average of Pounds 3,000 annually. Last year it raised Pounds 6,000 to Pounds 7,000 for computers. This year, the PTA must find Pounds 30,000.

"I am very angry that the Government does not seem to think that education is a priority," said Therese Penny, whose five-year-old daughter Hannah joined the school at Easter.

"The Government says it is giving extra money for education. It said the same last year, but when it got down to the school it ended up as a cut.

"The school has managed very well up to now, but the only thing we could cut now is teaching staff. If we cut the teachers, my daughter would be in a class of 40."

The school has already been given Pounds 1,000 towards the shortfall it faces on its committed spending of around Pounds 290,000 next year.

Ideas of ways of raising the rest of the cash range from parents cleaning school windows (Pounds 100) to a dream raffle with prizes that include a microlight flight and a drive in a Ferrari.

Mr Causer said: "I feel very excited about everything, but I am also very annoyed. I am spending a lot of time trying to co-ordinate the plans for this when what I would like to be doing is working on things that improve education for children.

"The Government should provide an adequate amount of money for education. We don't want funding coming out of our ears. What we want is funding adequate to what is expected of us."

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