You messed up - so deal with it

6th June 2003 at 01:00
I HAVE read with interest the many letters from heads and governors about the disastrous consequences of the Department for Education and Skills'

funding for schools, for it is not primarily a problem created by local education authorities.

The Government's mantra that it has massively increased funding for education this year needs to be considered alongside the fact that it has clearly taken out of the system even more than the impressive amounts going in, and just did not realise until it was all too late. Cock-up, then, not conspiracy.

My own school is a small 11 to 16 secondary of 210 pupils in a rural area in Cumbria, with 14 teaching staff. Thanks to this government we have had financial improvements for the past few years, after many years of struggle and deficit during the last Conservative government.

There is no doubt that Labour has been good at redressing the balance and putting resources back into education. Last year, for the first time, we had a small surplus of pound;18,000 which we earmarked to increase administrative and learning support.

However, as a result of the 20034 budget we will now plunge straight into a pound;42,000 deficit (that is, a pound;65,000 descent from our surplus position). Cumbria, as the DfES clearly admits, is not to blame; all money was passed on appropriately to schools.

We could resolve the deficit by making two of our 14 staff redundant, though this would make our curriculum untenable. We would have used our capital funding of pound;25,000 to help, but it is already spent on last year's building project. So we have taken the only possible way forward, which is to take Mr Clarke at his word and set a deficit budget. So we will make the same provision as last year, as if we had continuation funding.

This does, however, leave Mr Clarke with responsibility to be true to his word that the money is in the system somewhere and will arrive in schools.

Otherwise our pound;42,000 deficit next year will become pound;107,000, and the following year pound;172,000, by which time the school will be well and truly bankrupt.

Furthermore, this scenario is based on a standstill situation and fails to deliver the growth heralded by Mr Clarke earlier this year when all those new billions of pounds were announced to improve our resources.

When my pupils make a mistake, I always counsel them that we all make mistakes; no one is perfect. But the important thing is to recognise the mistake, admit it, take responsibility, apologise and make good the damage.

I commend this approach to the Government, and ask when and how is this damage to be made good?

Dave Smith

Headteacher, Settlebeck high school

Long Lane

Sedbergh, Cumbria

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