Parents ease a budget rebellion

30th November 2007 at 00:00

Balancing the books takes on added meaning at Sherwood Primary which appealed to parents for pound;5,000 donations to buy reading books.

That is because David Fann, its headteacher, needs every penny of his pound;1 million budget to pay for the school's 17 qualified teachers.

Mr Fann and his board of governors are deliberately snubbing the Government's remodelling agenda which would put teaching assistants at the front of classes.

Instead he, his deputy and a part-time teacher cover the school's 14 classes to allow the regular teachers to take the guaranteed preparation time that makes up 10 per cent of their timetables. It is an expensive option.The school in Preston, Lancashire, is pound;2,000 over budget this year, and had to appeal to parents for the money to buy books.

Mr Fann is adamant that classes should never be led by teaching assistants and he believes the Government is short-changing pupils by encouraging other schools to use teaching assistants.

"The parents have supported us because they know the budget goes to quality teaching in small classes," he says. "I could have split-age classes or larger classes, but the children's learning would suffer."

Other headteachers might regard the "teacher only" option as an unaffordable luxury, but Sherwood school's green surrounds in suburban Preston belie its tight funding.

And 30 per cent of its 370 pupils have English as an additional language, predominantly Gujarati Muslims from inner Preston.

The school does use about 18 learning assistants to help the teachers and assist some of the children one-on-one - but teaching assistants always work under the direction of a teacher.

"It's my ultimate belief that only a teacher can provide the necessary quality and depth of education, because of their training and professionalism," says Mr Fann.

"They're organised, they know how to assess children properly, they understand their progress."

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