From the jumble sale era to the Starship Enterprise

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Ministers are being uncharacteristically modest, says Gerald Haigh

Talk to any head or governor about school budgets and sooner or later, after routine niggles about the state of the fence and whether the portable buildings will ever be replaced, they'll say: "Of course the bottom line is that more money has come into schools in the past few years than ever before."

That sometimes comes as a surprise, especially to people outside schools.

One head I discussed this with said: "It's amazing that this government, well known for their ability to spin, haven't made more of it."

The fact of the matter, though, is that his school - a 250-pupil primary - went, a few years ago, from running jumble sales to buy one computer at a time to the point where it suddenly acquired (through National Grid for Learning funding) a pound;20,000 computer suite. Then the Standards Fund now adds about pound;25,000 a year to the budget, and Gordon Brown's direct grant another pound;30,000.

Now, devolved capital funding (about pound;60,000 over four years) is going to make it possible to carry out major refurbishment in all the classrooms. There are other pots, too, some of which you need to be alert and ready to bid for.

"And that's in addition to the money that local authorities have had to do work in schools," says this head.

"Our boiler room, that used to give us real trouble in the winter, now looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise."

Yes, there is still a long way to go. Yes, some of the money is still tied to targets and bids. But it is money all the same, and it is very welcome.

Maybe - just maybe - we are moving out of the jumble sale era.

Gerald Haigh was a headteacher in the lean years and is now a governor in the years of relative plenty

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