Comment - Poor cousin until we're given equal funding

14th November 2008 at 00:00

By a quirk of geography, Offa's Mead Primary School has a Welsh postcode and telephone number, despite sitting on the edge of the Forest of Dean in rural Gloucestershire. But in terms of education, the school is clearly an English institution, and an English headteacher, Chris Brown, is glad to find himself on that side of Offa's Dyke. His small and fairly old village school is in a good condition, with modern resources, but he looks to the Welsh border with pity.

"I understand the situation in Wales is a lot different in terms of funding," he says. Indeed it is.

Less than a mile away, David Evans, headteacher of The Dell Primary in a relatively affluent suburb of the small town of Chepstow, is facing tough times. While Offa's Mead and The Dell are close geographically, the distance between them financially is huge. While his English counterpart is content with the way his school is funded, Mr Evans has a long list of problems.

He clearly doesn't relish giving me a tour of the school, pointing out flooded toilets, classroom carpets held together by tape and a leaking skylight that wasn't fixed for four months.

The small school library is another source of shame; its few shelves are home to a sparse and sorry-looking selection of books whose broken spines and tattered covers bear witness to many years of use. Having taught at three English schools, Mr Evans is unused to such financial hardship, and dislikes having to work each day keeping a close eye on his budget.

But that's the reality of the situation, and Mr Evans says that unless there is parity with the English system, Wales will always be the poor relation. Offa's Dyke has renewed significance; a reminder that a very real and troubling division still exists.

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