Merry Christmas, Mr Clarke

We note with concern the anxiety and additional workload being created by workforce reforms, especially planning, preparation and assessment time.

While the principles are laudable we have reservations about both further "top-down" change and funding.

Schools minister David Miliband is undoubtedly correct to encourage schools to delve into the creative well of their communities. The problem is that we have been doing this for years. Not only is it unlikely that there are enough creative people out there, but we must also consider the economics.

To maintain standards of pupil work and behaviour, these people will need to have the appropriate skills and will therefore have to be paid at a level close to teachers.

It would appear that we have been offered 1 per cent of budget to cover 712 of the 10 per cent increase in staffing i.e. for two terms to March 2005. The funding increase for the following full year amounts to 1.5 per cent. A seven-year-old can divine that we are getting 23 of the additional funding for 712 of the full costs.

The average cost of a teacher is pound;30,000; to replace teachers with teachers the 10 per cent PPA requires at least pound;3,000 for a full year or pound;1,750 per class for the remainder of this financial year. We calculate that 1 per cent of our budgets equal pound;700 per class, about 40 per cent of the potential cost this financial year and only 35 per cent of costs in 20067.

We also calculate that if we only use the proposed funding we could pay anyone covering PPA time pound;13.30 an hour dropping to pound;11.67 in 20067 - higher-level teaching assistants cost us about pound;14 an hour.

Spread over the 80 hours needed per teacher that is clearly going to dent budgets. Not many HLTAs, coaches or gifted music and drama instructors will get out of bed for less than pound;10 an hour. The funding gap is perhaps the most alarming part of this legislation.

The implications of implementing profound change on a shoestring are well known. We will need to cut back drastically in some of the key areas where this Government has enabled us to advance; training, resources and leadership time will all be carved away to fit this over-sized present into a tiny stocking.

Mr Clarke should offer a longer run-in and greater funding, and then sit back and enjoy his sherry and mince pies knowing that he was empowering us to do our best, not shackling us with yet more centralised directives.

20 members ofThe Primary Headteachers Tunbridge Wells Network Learning Community

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