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pound;80m to help heads of small schools

Estelle Morris, the schools minister, is today set to announce an extra pound;80 million a year to support heads of small schools, writes Geraldine Hackett.

The cash, which comes from the Chancellor's last budget, will guarantee funds for three years. It can be used to remove some of the administrative burdens on heads or allow them to employ specialist teachers.

The money will help about 8,000 primaries and 800 secondaries that have fewer than 200 pupils. Many of these schools are in rural areas.

The minister is expected to promise the National Association of Head Teachers' conference in York that primary schools will no longer have to bid for grants from the Standards Fund. From next week, education authorities will also e let off bidding.

Heads of small schools complain of extra pressure because they often have to take classes. Christine Gough puts in a 60-hour week as head of a 97-pupil primary that serves three villages just north of Ipswich.

"The big issue is teaching load. I have a class for more than half the week and yet have to cope with the same amount of paperwork as non-teaching heads," she said.

Her school, Witnesham primary, got pound;7,000 this year in recognition of the special problems of running a small school.

She said: "It means we can buy in supply cover to give me more free time, but the longer I spend out of my class, the less continuity for my pupils. It is also hard to find high-quality supply cover."

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