Schools count cost of reforms

29th April 2005 at 01:00
But the size of your surplus or deficit is little indication of whether you can or cannot afford workforce deal

Schools struggling to balance the books to implement workforce reforms have been repeatedly told to seek help from their local authority or the national remodelling team. The response, however, has so far been distinctly underwhelming.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have told schools they must talk to their local authorities or the remodelling team if they have problems. Local authorities have the power to lever in extra cash to schools in difficulties.

"Schools must be prepared to be asked to open their books to show they cannot afford it."

While it may appear that schools with excessive surpluses have no excuse not to implement reforms, savings are often already accounted for.

Harpur Mount primary, in Manchester, opened in 1904 by suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, needed major renovations which have used up almost all of its Pounds 697,362 surplus in the past year.

A new nursery has been built, and rotten windows and a broken boiler replaced. Today, pound;58,000 of that money remains in the bank, much of which will be used to replace a leaking roof.

Pat Turner, headteacher, has also had to calculate the cost of implementing workforce reforms. "We have given our staff some non-contact time for the past five years. We plan to ensure they get the statutory PPA time by having three floating teachers, one for each key stage, to free up staff," she said.

Harpur Mount has one floating teacher among its complement of 22 qualified staff, after two left recently to go to other jobs.

However, it plans to recruit extra staff by the September deadline for workload reforms.

"We decided that we had to use fully-qualified teachers to meet these requirements rather than being creative, as some schools are being forced to do," Mrs Turner added.

Downsell primary, Waltham Forest, and Heaton primary, Bradford, which also had surpluses in 2004, refused to comment.

At the other end of the scale, some schools with deficits will be able to bring in the reforms, despite their difficulties.

Mike Charnock, head of Westwood Park, Bradford, said the school was Pounds 257,000 in the red due to a shortfall in the predicted number of pupils a new housing estate would provide. He plans to provide 10 per cent non-contact time for seven teachers by using existing staff and appointing a part-time teacher for September.

Catriona Williamson, head of Garton on the Wolds primary, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, fears that withdrawal from the agreement is being wrongly interpreted as a rejection of its principles.

She is expected to propose a motion at the NAHT conference calling for the union to clarify its reasons for withdrawal from the workforce agreement.

"It is very important that the NAHT gets its message across to parents, other unions and the general public that headteachers are not the bad guys in this," she said. "There is a suggestion that heads don't agree with workforce reform or want to give teachers PPA and that is not the case. But there are schools that cannot afford it."

Steve Kite, head of Edmund de Moundeford primary, Feltwell, Norfolk, will propose a motion calling for enough funding for schools to provide PPA cover with qualified teachers. He said: "There is not enough cash in Norfolk schools to do this. We are being asked to make a choice between potentially lowering standards by putting people who are not qualified teachers in front of classes or not giving teachers the PPA time they deserve."

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