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Karen Kinsley, newly-qualified teacher at Brookland junior, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, said: "Things have got a lot better since I was a teaching assistant a couple of years ago. The new curriculum is very structured especially in literacy and numeracy.

"Education standards have improved, but teachers' lot has not.

"I was almost put off teaching because of the salary. I know a couple of people who were considering training but they looked at the salary and just thought 'no way'."

Dr Martin Stephen, High

Master of Manchester Grammar, said: "It is a pity that the Third Way has fizzled out for independent schools. It is also a great pity that children whose parents have the misfortune to have little money are denied access to some of the best schools in the world.

"I would be very much in favour of match funding. If we have raised pound;6.5 million for bursary funding here wouldn't it be nice to have that matched by the Government?" Chris Davis, head of Queniborough primary, Leicestershire, said: "We have been much better off. Things have been much more secure than they have been for years. We lived from hand-to-mouth under the Tories.

"We have seen money coming in which has enabled us to do things which had been pipe dreams.

"But we are still upset by the league tables of national test scores. Publication (of results) is counterproductive anddiminishes standards."

Joanna Wasserman, deputy head of the Michael Sobell Sinai school, Harrow, Middlesex, said: "There is greater emphasis than before on effective provision for special needs children which was needed. However, more dedicated funding directly to the schools is essential so we can follow the Government's guidelines.

"League tables still don't reflect the individual effort of SEN children and their progress."

Phil Howard, head, Little Eaton primary, Derbyshire, said: "Labour still needs to address staffing in primaries. We only managed to get staffed up for this January a couple of days before the start of term."

Terri Carling, Year 5 and 6 teacher, North Cave C of E primary, Brough, East Yorkshire, said: "Certainly there has been more money and there has been more to support training, particularly in maths. But there is still too much paperwork and pressure.

"I worry about the national tests. Many European countries wonder why we have to keep testing.

"I don't think the Government has raised the status of teachers."

Roy Ludlow, head of Beechen Cliff boys' comprehensive, Bath, said: "As a former grant-maintained school, we have very much missed GM-status. We have found it difficult to adjust to lower funding. We preferred the situation when we had 100 per cent control of the funding."

Alison Brace Jon Slater

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