Cash not enough to undo years of neglect

25th May 2001 at 01:00
Headteacher Paul Logan often jokes with parents about the state of his school buildings when he takes them on a tour of his Warwickshire comprehensive. He needs to.

There is asbestos, a condemned, temporary classroom shored up with pit props and, up until last month when two new classrooms opened, there had been no new building at the school for 20 years.

Shabby is the word Mr Logan rightly uses to describe the school buildings. There is only so much you can do with posters and displays of pupils' work to brighten up dingy corridors.

Walls are pitted and pockmarked, there are stains on the ceiling panels where the rain has come through the flat roof, scuff marks on the floor, and there is damp in the boys' toilets.

The school runs on its original 1950s boiler because it would cost more than pound;100,000 to replace.

Mr Logan says that he sees no evidence in his school of the massive cash injection talked about by Labour. His budget increase this year was less than the teachers'pay rise (see below).

"We can't believe it when the Government tells us we are better off," he said. "We are only just keeping our heads above water. Many departments have less to spend on resources. I have cut the staff cover budget by a quarter. It doesn't strike me that we have had massive investment."

True. Some pound;400,000 from the national New Deal for Schools budget is being spent on removing asbestos from the 1950s block.

Warwickshire has also upgraded six of the 10 temporary classrooms that have been on the site for almost two decades. One has been condemned.

And last month two new classrooms, costing around pound;80,000, again financed from the New Deal, opened. However, the 1,000-pupil school is not awash with money. It has no reserves and is running on empty.

A-level business studies pupils work on computers that are six years out of date. Other students share dog-eared textbooks.

Yet, despite its dismal buildings, Kineton is popular and successful. The school, which draws pupils from 30 primaries, has a waiting list for Year 7. Its A-level pass rate in 2000 was 89 per cent, just 2 per cent short of its record 91 per cent in 1998. Almost half the entries were graded A-C.

At GCSE, 58 per cent of all entries gained A*-C grades compared to the national average of 56 per cent. Half of the Year 11 group gained five or more good grades.

Mr Logan feels frustrated because the buildings blot the school's successful record. He explained: "I've got good staff, and the kids want to learn and like the school. I just wish the Government would be a bit more honest about buildings and funding.

"There are lots of schools like this and worse. It is going to take far more money and time to undo the years of chronic neglect than this Government is prepared to admit.

"Instead we get this triumphalism, the New Jerusalem, and ministers try to convince us that we feel better, but it just doesn't work."

the lotteryof funding Hole in the finances: Warwickshire headteacher Paul Logan outside a crumbling building at Kineton school. 'It doesn't strike me that we've had a massive investment,' he says. See story below


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