Eight out of 10 for Tony

15th April 2005 at 01:00
When the Prime Minister faces tough questions on the campaign trail he may recall a pupil he encountered at a Newcastle primary school.

Sam Cottage, a seven-year-old at Hotspur primary, was preparing for his key stage 1 assessment last year, when he asked: "Why do we have tests and exams?"

Teachers at Hotspur believe Sam was right to question the purpose of testing in primaries.

But they feel the pressure has lessened recently and were glad when the literacy and numeracy strategies were replaced with the less prescriptive "excellence and enjoyment" plan.

Hotspur suffered a deficit in the funding crisis of 2003, forcing it to lose one full-time and one part-time teacher. Angry parents wrote a letter to Charles Clarke, then education secretary, accusing him of putting their children's education at risk.

Annie Walker, deputy head, said: "When we got the Labour government in we thought that everything was going to be great. Then suddenly it wasn't and we felt let down." The Government threw the school a lifeline by letting it pay for salaries using some of its capital funding.

The school finances are in a better state now, it recently bought seven interactive whiteboards. But it still does not get as much money as others in central Newcastle. It also faces falling rolls: its Years 3 and 4 classes have been merged to form classes of 31 and 33, while its two reception classes only have 17 pupils each.

Headteacher Miles Clarke fears that the advent of compulsory planning preparation and assessment time in the day for teachers from September may force the school to create larger classes or give pupils less individualised support.

"We are never going to be happy in schools about the money we get, but we have had a lot more of it under Labour," he said.

Mr Clarke said he would give the Government seven out of 10, while Mrs Walker suggested an eight, "with room for improvement".

Michael Shaw

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