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When delegation falls short

PRIMARY schools don't come much more successful than the Hawthorns in Wokingham, Berkshire, the fifth-highest authority in England in performance tables.

At key stage 2, 97 per cent of pupils reached at least level 4 in English and science this year, with a 93 per cent success rate in maths.

Headteacher Steve Hempson-Jones, who has 400 pupils, 15 full-time equivalent teachers and a pound;660,000 budget, welcomes the fact his authority delegates 88 per cent of its education funding to schools, making it one of the most generous in England.

But he feels there are limits: "We suffer with a pretty big administrative burden. Primaries do not have the same administrative framework as secondaries. As more functions have been delegated it has been harder to cope."

And although Wokingham delegates a high proportion of funds, with an allocation of pound;2,72 per pupil (pound;154 above what the Government says should be spent), it is the third-worst-funded education authority in England.

"There is no reward for our success. Difficulties should be recognised but the result is that all the money is being poured into problem areas. Are we seeing value for money?" said Mr Hempson-Jones.

His colleague Lorna Roberts, who runs the Holt, a nearby 1,200-pupil girls' secondary, said: "With high delegation, schools can make decisions as close to the chalkface as possible."

Her school operates with 75 full-time teachers, on a budget of pound;2.9 million, plus pound;120,000 as a specialist language centre.

Mrs Roberts puts 8 per cent of her budget into administration support believing it is a crucial investment - "a teacher's job is to teach and we try to give them support to do that".

Lisa Hutchins

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