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Heads want more cash for troublespots

The Government must channel extra resources into struggling schools, such as the Ridings in Halifax, and back them up with a strong development programme, according to David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

Mr Hart told a conference of primary heads in Bristol: "I can think of no better purpose than to spend part of such resources on recruiting the best head, the best deputies and the best teachers. Pupils in those schools deserve nothing less."

His call came as pupils and staff at the Ridings, and at another troubled school, Manton primary in Worksop (below right), returned to normal timetables after the schools were forced to close following highly public disputes involving disruptive pupils. The disputes have fed concerns over pupil behaviour, exclusion policies and failing schools.

Mr Hart said the fund for such schools would be administered by the local education authority or the Funding Agency for Schools, which is responsible for grant-maintained schools.

The NAHT will ask Calderdale council, which is responsible for the Ridings, how much it is spending at the school in additional support for areas of the curriculum that are underresourced, for pupils exhibiting disruptive behaviour and on additional salaries.

"I would like us to work with schools like the Ridings and others which have had special measures to see the sort of additional resources that are needed, " said Mr Hart.

He believes the Government must also take its share of the blame for schools that are victims of the highly competitive nature of a post-1988 education system that has created winners and losers.

While he acknowledged it would be futile to blame such a system for all the ills which beset schools such as the Ridings, Mr Hart pointed out that the Government's Education Bill proved it had learnt nothing.

"The simplistic view that schools which fail will go to the wall is highly damaging to the future of the pupils and teachers in those establishments, " he said. "We are seeing the growth of an underclass for whom unemployment and crime is a certain prospect."

The reasons included the closure of too many special schools, integration into mainstream schools unaccompanied by adequate resources, a special needs code of practice which is deplorably underfunded, poor parenting skills and a breakdown of the community and family structure.

When this was compounded by poor teaching, weak governors and an incompetent LEA, said Mr Hart, it produced a combination of circumstances which put heads in an impossible situation.

He said there were plenty of schools serving catchment areas just as poor as the Ridings that were doing a great deal better. There was a need to disseminate good practice and to avoid the isolation that an unsuccessful school must feel.

"It has suddenly dawned on politicians," he said, "that the problems are not confined to secondary schools, that more primary pupils are being excluded and that too many children of four or five are devoid of social skills. Primary schools have a key role to play if we are to reduce the hard core of young persons who are in danger of being lost to society."

He said that whereas in 1986 the reputation of the teaching profession was at an all-time low, in 1996 their reputation is high, according to opinion polls.

This was despite being denied appropriate conditions of service, deprived of adequate funding and being subjected to a barrage of extreme criticism.

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