Where there's mulch there's brass

19th April 1996 at 01:00
As the test marketing of nursery vouchers got under way in England this week a headteacher in South Wales is turning to nursery gardening to help his cash-strapped school.

David Winfield, head of Sandfields Comprehensive in Port Talbot, is nurturing 800 bedding plants in the garden of his Neath home. And after some tender loving care he plans to sell them at a fund- raising school fete - and dispose of any leftovers at a car boot sale.

The Pounds 500 or so they should fetch will go into the school's funds, perhaps helping to buy a microwave to replace the one stolen recently or towards giving the classrooms a lick of paint.

Mr Winfield, secretary of the National Association of Headteachers in Wales, is philosophical about his role as a part-time nursery man. But he says ruefully: "It's pretty ridiculous that I'm having to sell geraniums and fuchsias to help the school to operate."

Working with dibble and mulch is not the only extra-curricular activity he's undertaken recently. When paving stones in the playground needed relaying he set to and mixed the concrete - "I'm responsible for health and safety at the school. The local authority only had the cash to supply the materials but not the labour. So it was a case of 'do-it-yourself'."

Win Griffiths, MP for Bridgend and Labour's education spokesman for Wales, said the situation was farcical. "It's a scandal that heads have to do this sort of thing," he commented.

Sandfields, a 650-place mixed school, is one of 11 comprehensives for which Neath and Port Talbot County Borough Council is responsible. The council, one of the 22 unitary authorities which began operating in Wales on April 1 when local government was reorganised, also runs 72 primary schools and one special school. Between them the 84 schools in the new authority are faced with a total shortfall of Pounds 500,000 in the current year's funding.

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