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Milked dry by `housekeepers'

Our school became grant-maintained in April, 1994. From that time the LEA ceased to act as our agents in operating the milk subsidy scheme. We were reassured to learn, however, that the Grant Maintained Schools Centre, established by the Government to advise and protect the interests of opted-out schools, could now fill the role for us. This centre offers other services and courses to GM schools upon payment of the appropriate annual subscription (Pounds 528.75 for a school of our size with 258 pupils).

From April we continued to provide milk at the subsidised rate, while bearing the full cost from our own private funds, and at the end of the summer and autumn terms we duly applied to the GMSC for reimbursement. Having received nothing for either term, we decided earlier this week to investigate the cause of the delay and have now received verbal confirmation from the director of finance at the GMSC that it is the centre's policy to hold on to monies received from the EC (and owed to schools!) for several months until the money for the following term's subsidy arrives - this, it was explained, was to ensure income for the centre itself.

We are dismayed and shocked to learn that a body appointed by government to further the interests of GM schools openly admits it delays payment due to schools in order to promote its own interests. Is the EC subsidy provided to benefit children or the GMSC? Is everything, even money to buy milk for children, up for grabs? Is this an example of the good housekeeping we are constantly (and needlessly) told to exercise?

We received the cheque for last summer term's milk the morning after our conversation with the director of finance, and he assured us that any school that rang to ask for payment would receive it promptly. We maintain that the termly application forms are in themselves requests for reimbursement. Should we await a personal request for payment for the invoice received by us from the Centre for Copyright Licencing Agency Fee, also received this week? We feel very tempted to leave it at the bottom of our "pending" tray.

We should be interested to hear from any other schools which have had similar experiences.

ALISON M LOCK

Headteacher

NORMAN B WARD

Chairman of governors

MARY J SHERRATT

Administrator

The British School

Wortley Road

Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire

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