Primaries feel budget stress

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Financial worries continue to top the list of primary headteachers' concerns, reports Helen Ward

School budgets remain the biggest concern for primary heads for the 11th year running, according to a major survey.

Money tops the survey of more than 400 English heads released this week by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

But, although three-quarters of heads cited budgets as their main worry, this is fewer than in 2003, the year of the "funding crisis", when the figure was more than 80 per cent.

The survey also reveals heads' response to ministers' plans for schools to stay open longer, and offer breakfast and after-school clubs as part of a childcare "revolution".

More than three-quarters of heads said they offered after-school clubs but 35 per cent said funding was a barrier to adding further services, and 39 per cent said they lacked the room to do so.

Four out of 10 heads were also worried about the funding implications of letting all children take up a musical instrument, learn a foreign language and play sport.

More than nine out of 10 were concerned about teachers' workload and a further 61 per cent said the pressure on teaching assistants was a worry.

But concerns about the administrative burden on teachers fell from more than 90 per cent in 2000 to 68 per cent in 2004, according to the Annual Survey of Trends in Primary Education.

It was carried out last year, before the falling-out between the National Association of Head Teachers and the Government over funding for the workforce remodelling agreement.

Lesley Kendall, of the NFER, said: "We have asked about workload for the past four years.

"For the fourth year teachers' workload is a real concern for heads - more than 90 per cent are concerned about it, but we have seen a change since 2000 and it is slightly less than it was in earlier years. It is still too high but perhaps it is moving in the right direction."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We are backing significant school reform with significant financial investment.

School budgets are at unprecedented levels."

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