We've never had it so good, says head

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Schools are better funded than they have ever been and teachers should recognise how much their lot has improved over the past 10 years, a Shropshire headteacher believes.

Kevin Bryant said he was frustrated to hear fellow professionals complain about tight budgets when the reality was that they had "never had it so good".

His comments come amid continuing controversy over the workforce deal, which from September will give teachers half a day a week off for marking and preparation, but which many heads allege has not been funded properly.

Figures, however, show a large real-terms increase in education funding since Labour came to power. Nationally, funding was pound;3,000 per pupil in 1997-98, at 2005 prices. By 2004-5, it was pound;3,880.

Mr Bryant is head of St Laurence Church of England primary in Ludlow, Shropshire, which manages to find enough cash to give all its 65 Year 4 and 5 pupils free violins and weekly instrumental tuition, while also providing them with easy access to computers.

He said: "If you'd have told me 10 years ago that the school would have a nursery, that we would have maximum infant class sizes of 30, that we would have interactive whiteboards in every class, I would have thought you were crazy.

"We have had more money for teaching assistants, for booster classes and now teachers are being promised 10 per cent non-contact time. "I can remember walking the streets of Shrewsbury 10 years ago protesting about cutbacks. Things have changed out of all recognition since then."

Mr Bryant, who admitted he was lucky to work in a school with supportive parents and well-behaved pupils, has been a head for 10 years. He took the helm at St Laurence three years ago, having previously led another Shropshire primary, Greenfields in Shrewsbury.

He has 40 computers for his 225 pupils - 10 years ago, primaries were lucky to have four.

The school, which has a pound;630,000 budget, about average for its size, spends around pound;8,000 on its music provision, around 10 times the average.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said:

"Everyone recognises that the Government has concentrated hard on bringing additional resources into education. But it's important to be clear-eyed about this.

"The average spending of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries on education is 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product.

"Here it is 5.5 per cent and the Government's target is only 5.6 per cent by 2008, so let's not go overboard. There's a long way to go."

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