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Primary heads wary of extra cash

GOVERNMENT moves to delegate more money to schools have prompted concern among primary headteachers, writes Clare Dean.

While their secondary counterparts are keen to take on additional responsibilities, primary heads are worried about the administrative workload. They fear the burden will fall unfairly on small primaries and have serious doubts about the timescale for the proposals, which come into effect from next April.

Heads have told the Department for Education and Employment that they are opposed to having to take over responsibility for school repairs and maintenance. They say they do not know enough about maintaining buildings and are worried about the dilapidated state of schools, and the health and safety implications. They fear that funding will be inadequate to meet legal requirements.

These concerns are revealed in a summary of the almost 3,000 responses to the DFEE's consultation paper on Fair Funding, intended to remove differences in funding between grant-maintained and local authority schools.

Ministers are forcing councils to delegate an extra Pounds 1 billion to schools in the most radical shake-up of funding since local management was introduced a decade ago. Schools will fund building repairs and maintenance, staff costs, advisory and inspection services and special needs.

Half of the GM secondaries and more than a third of the primary and middle schools that have opted out responded to the consultation document, issued in May. This compares with 9 per cent of LEA primary and middle schools and 10 per cent of LEA secondaries. Not surprisingly, the GM schools argued for greater delegation which for them means maintaining the status quo.

A significant number of local authority secondaries sided with the GM sector to support delegated funding for school meals, but the majority of councils and primaries were opposed.

There was a mixed response to the principle of increased delegation, with a significant number of LEA secondaries and some councils backing it. But many councils were concerned about implementing all the proposals by April 1999.

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