English schools scrimp while... French funds are more generous

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
When Mike Franklin became headteacher of the Prince Henry Grammar School in Otley 12 years ago, he had 1,150 pupils and 74 teachers. Now he has 1,300 pupils and 73 teachers - he is 10 teachers short.

He said: "I had already worked in Leeds education authority for eight years when I arrived here and I didn't think the funding was generous then. We have big classes and a heavy teaching load. If teachers are to do a really good job and have the time to prepare and plan and mark work as they should, then I need another Pounds 300,000."

Prince Henry is not a grammar school. It is an 11-18 comprehensive serving Otley and neighbouring Pool and Branhope - a socially mixed area, favoured by the professional classes, but with pockets of deprivation.

In its last Office for Standards in Education report, Prince Henry was described as "a good school with many outstanding features", but it pays dearly for its 53-60 per cent who achieve five or more GCSE grade A to Cs, according to Mr Franklin. "It's a frenetic existence for staff. I frequently see teachers very exhausted. I get in at 8am and many staff are here before me. Many of them work more than a 60-hour week."

The school runs an intensive extra-curricular programme with sport, drama and music available at lunchtime and after school.

Teachers are timetabled for 22 out of 25 one-hour periods with form tutoring on top of that. Up to 80 per cent of staff time is spent in front of the class and for two of the three non-contact hours, staff are on call to cover for absences, which are increasing - the school also spends growing amounts on supply cover (Pounds 38,000 last year).

Pupil:teacher ratios in the Leeds education authority are high due to a "poor" standard spending assessment, according to Mr Franklin who would like to see a national funding formula "which irons out discrepancies in different parts of the country". He said: "The present SSA is too complex, too opaque, there are too many anomalies. We would like to see a transparent funding formula. It might not benefit us, but at least I would be able to explain it to my staff."

He would also like to see teachers paid more and to have pay rises fully funded by the Government. Even in a school like Prince Henry's, which is attractive to teachers, if a vacancy falls after May in maths, physics, music or religious education "there are no people out there to fill posts".

Despite the fact that the school, which dates back to 1607, is fortunate to have a foundation providing an extra Pounds 10,000 a year, which is mostly spent on the library and information technology, it is critically short of textbooks. Children up to Year 10 do not have textbooks which they can take home and pupils in lower-ability sets do not have textbooks even at GCSE. Most technology and physics equipment dates back to the 1960s.

Although the school buildings are in a reasonable condition, external decoration is poor. They were last painted seven years ago with "no prospect" of being repainted in the future.

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