Schools saved from the worst as council cutbacks continue

13th March 1998 at 00:00
David Henderson talks to one head who is struggling to cope with the realities.

Three years ago, Ian Topping, head of Wilton primary, Hawick, spent pound;36 a pupil on materials. This coming financial year it is likely to be pound;24.50. Overall, he will have pound;1,950 less to spend on jotters, pencils, paints, maths books, photocopying and all the rest of it and this when the Government claims it is injecting more cash into education and demanding higher standards.

This year, for the 288 pupils in the mainstream primary and 40 in the nursery, he has spent pound;8,760. Next year it is down to pound;6,810. His special needs budget stays the same. It seems inevitable he will have to ask the parent-teacher association to stump up for core books and materials.

Mr Topping, a teacher member on Scottish Borders education committee, praises the council for protecting education, diverting cash from other budgets and using the fresh Government funds to support teachers in the classroom. But the consequences of pound;800,000 worth of education cuts are felt elsewhere.

His staff development budget amounts to only pound;667 for 15 teachers, pound;44 a head. Little is possible when it costs more than pound;100 a day for a supply teacher, plus the costs of the courses teachers attend.

Replacing furniture in an old school is not easy either when the budget is pound;940. The equipment budget for television, video and computers is likely to be just pound;1,270. "If I buy a computer, I can buy nothing else," he says.

Information technology may be Tony Blair's priority but spending at Winton will be down from pound;408 to pound;136. Fewer programs will be bought.

Mr Topping says: "I am now looking at a budget where there are certain things I have got to buy. Like most schools we are going for Heinemann maths and year in year out that costs over pound;1,000 whether our budget is cut or not. This year I allocated 13 per cent of the budget to maths, pound;1,063. Next year if I keep it at 13 per cent it will be pound;886."

Materials such as paper, paints, jotters, Bluetack and drawing pins will be hit while more is spent on library books. Mr Topping says that some things just have to be replaced, like atlases which date quickly. "These are not luxuries we are talking about," he insists.

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