Head who goes after the money, too

14th February 1997 at 00:00
Weston Favell Upper has feast and famine at the same time - a Pounds 1. 1 million building project for a sports and arts complex, technology college status and a cut of almost Pounds 200,000 to its budget.

The Northampton school has become adept at asking - and getting - businesses, charities, even the National Sports Lottery, to cough up cash.

Headteacher John Howard was meeting the Prince's Trust this week to discuss funding for a homework centre: "Another thing the Government says is a good idea, yet who is out trying to get the money? Me."

Weston Favell Upper, a 1,300-pupil comprehensive, faces a shortfall of Pounds 85,460 on itsPounds 2.8 million budget from April. At the same time, staffing costs will rise by Pounds 85,000 and curriculum development plans mean it will have to find another Pounds 16,750.

All in all, Mr Howard and his governors will be Pounds 187,210 short. He had budgeted for a 3 per cent pay rise, while the phased award works out at around 2.85 per cent.

"Wearing my management cap I am very pleased, wearing my cap as head of school I have to say it is not 3 per cent. Teachers are getting less and that clearly is not good news in terms of recruitment and retention."

The majority of staff at Weston Favell Upper - 80 per cent - are on point nine of the pay spine. Turnover is low, 1 per cent in the last two to three years, and six of the 79 teachers have been there since the 1970s.

From April, its staffing costs will rise from Pounds 2.08 million to Pounds 2.16 million because of incremental drift, the impact of the 1996 phased pay award and the 3 per cent pay award.

Faced with the choice of either larger classes - the average at Weston Favell Upper is 26 - or less teacher non-contact time, the school has opted for the latter.

"I am not going to increase class size because I am clear about the relationship between the quality of education and the size of class," said Mr Howard. "My staff are convinced about that, too. We had an open debate about which route to go down and it was total consensus that they would rather work harder than put up class size."

The 3 per cent pay award came as no surprise to staff who although they do not like it, believe the phasing will help the school through its budget problems. Northamptonshire County Council had allocated nothing for pay.

"We are caught between a rock and a hard place," said Andrew Warren, head of history. "I don't think the award is enough, I am quite angry that it is being phased and yet we know that it hasn't been funded and the implications for our school are horrendous. It is a very invidious position to be put in."

Mr Warren, who has negative equity on his home, is on point 11. His Pounds 23,514 salary will increase to Pounds 24,291 from April. "When I look at what my friends who graduated at the same time as me are earning and see the differences in what we are being paid, I feel that we are being significantly under paid as a profession."

Malcolm Gough, a student teacher from the Open University, is going in with his eyes open: "No one goes into teaching for the pay. It is not something you look forward to.

"I suppose to that extent that the award has kept up with inflation it's reasonable, but I feel the Government could invest much more in teachers. " Criticism of the Government for refusing to fund the pay award ran from the head down.

"It really is quite extraordinary that a pay award is decided by an independent body, accepted by the Government and then not funded. Where is the morality in that?" asked Mr Howard.

Peter Blachford, a senior tutor on point 11, echoed the same theme: "It really is immoral to expect local authorities to come up with the money.

"All the time teachers are being expected to do more and more for less and less. Lack of funding on the part of the Government is crazy. It just means that money is diverted from other areas of the service to pay for this. "

While that happens Mr Howard, in common with headteachers throughout the country, continues the search for other sources of funding.

The Pounds 1.1 million sports complex, called a sports-plus centre, is funded by the National Sports Lottery, local businesses and charities, and will be ready in September.

Local businesses and charities came up with the cash again when the school needed Pounds 100,000 to gain technology college status. The Department for Education and Employment will add a further Pounds 100,000 and the school will also receive Pounds 100 a year for each student in the school to support improvements in maths, science and technology.

"It has been very hard work getting all this money together," said Mr Howard. "And as an institution we have got fairly successful at it. I didn't come into headship to be a business manager, but that's what I am."

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