Why is funding for special needs such a lottery, asks Maria Corby

20th February 2004 at 00:00
I'm not in the lottery syndicate at school, but 20 others are. I was listening to them chat in the staffroom the other day about what they would do if they won. I was waiting for the jokes: "You'll have to put a whole page ad in the Times Ed, Maria." "I'll think about you from my luxury yacht!" But not a bit of it. "I'd build a soft playroom for Kevin to bounce about in," said Gemma. "I'd like to make a sensory garden," said Charlotte.

Iain agreed and said he'd like to set up a respite care home, specially for the older kids.

This set everybody off, and before long they'd planned a self-sufficient residential complex with complementary therapies, family rooms, a swimming pool and a small farm that would meet everybody's needs and help relieve the parents of their worries. I was impressed. I can't imagine staff in other lines of work talking about spending their potential jackpots in such altruistic ways. I shouldn't be surprised though; most people who work in education are fond of children, and those of us who work in special education are aware of their needs and the shortcomings of society from their point of view.

The staffroom clock chimed one and it was time to get back to work. They were all off to their classes for afternoons of horseriding, African drumming, couscous cooking and Egyptian number work (no, I don't know either) and I was off to my office to fill in another 20-page application for a grant, this time for after-hours school clubs. I began to feel resentful; I'm a teacher, so why is so much of my time spent jumping through hoops trying to get funds? Things are worse for my head. She spends hours filling in forms and gathering portfolios of evidence. Taking into account her time, the administration and checking up that has to be done, it would surely be more cost-effective to give us the money and let us get on with the job.

I calmed down with a deep breath and some creative visualisation - I imagined I'd won the lottery and was sunning myself on a beach - and had a closer look at the form. "Awards for All," it said. "Lottery funding."

Well, if the balls go our way this Saturday, I can rip up this form, but I think the staff should have their cruise as well. They deserve it.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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