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Heads get cash with council strings

All 35 primaries and seven secondaries in West Dunbartonshire are to share a pound;500,000 handout. They have been ordered to spend the cash on specific projects to raise standards and meet new Government targets. Detailed plans will have to be approved by education officials before the money is released.

Councillors last week agreed to devolve almost half of the pound;1.25 million windfall from the Government's New Deal for Schools initiative. But headteachers will have to show tangible results for the money spent, even after their outline schemes win council backing.

A primary of average size is likely to receive around pound;7,000 and an average secondary pound;30,000. Funding levels will depend on factors such as school rolls, footwear and clothing grants and free meals entitlement. Small schools will also benefit.

Ian McMurdo, director of education, said: "Headteachers who have had two years managing cuts are now going to have new money to spend. But they will be held to account." A quality assurance team will help monitor progress.

Danny McCafferty, education convener, said that both the New Deal money and the dropping of exam league tables would together - help raise expectations and encourage individual school achievement - without the annual assault on pupil and teacher morale.

"Over the next couple of years, I think we will be able to show the real achievements of our local schools for the first time," Mr McCafferty said.

Suggested areas for primaries include temporary additional staff, support for learning initiatives such as team teaching, projects on literacy and numeracy, early intervention and liaison with nurseries and secondaries. Secondaries are being invited to consider support for Higher Still, the 5-14 programme and staff development.

Meanwhile, West Dunbartonshire has rejected plans first spelled out in Labour's election manifesto to introduce parent advocates to ease parent-teacher relationships. Responding to the Scottish Office consultation paper Parents as Partners, the council says parents should make direct contact with the school and not use an intermediary.

Goldenhill primary, Clydebank, did a trial of the initiative but withdrew. Parents did not know who to contact first - the headteacher, the class teacher or the parent contact.

The council says: "Every headteacher and education official has had experience of parents ostensibly representing the views of a wide group of their peers, when the facts of the matter have turned out to be much different. It is important that individual parents should take responsibility for their children and their relationship with the school."

Good class teachers should already be giving advice and support to parents, according to the council.

"It is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which parents would look to the services of an advocate - except in circumstances where they were inclined to become litigious. And at that point they can and do seek the services of lawyers," the council states.

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