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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Funds not charity say teachers
primary classroom
Fund-raising is an essential activity for many schools
By BBC News Online's Angela Harrison at the ATL conference in Torquay

Primary schools are being propped up by charity and crisp packet schemes because they are under funded, teachers have said.

Projects run by crisp manufacturers and supermarkets have raised 100m for schools in the past few years, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Nestle, Time Computers and Walkers crisps have all run schemes to support schools.


We have teachers who are running jumble sales to save their colleagues from redundancy

Eddie Ferguson, President, ATL
But the ATL, which is holding its annual conference in Torquay, Devon, has questioned whether it is right for schools to depend on charity for vital equipment such as computers, software and books.

Angie Rutter, a primary school teacher in Buckinghamshire and an ATL branch secretary, said schools should be properly funded: "These schemes are not providing extras, but the basics, like books.

"It's very sad that you have to rely on everyone collecting bits of foil and paper so we can be adequately resourced."

She said teachers were also donating their money or goods to keep schools running and were buying their own books - at about 20 each - to help them teach literacy and numeracy.

Call for an audit

"If you came to my school and took out from the classrooms all the things that have been provided and paid for by the teachers, in most cases you would basically be left with the tables and chairs," she said.

"And rural Buckinghamshire is in no way a deprived area."

In a motion debated on Tuesday, the ATL called on the government to commission an independent audit to find out how much primary schools are benefiting from or relying on subsidies from teachers, parental donations, voucher schemes and other fund-raising ventures.

In his address to the conference, the union's president, Eddie Ferguson, said education was severely under funded.

"We have teachers who are running jumble sales to save their colleagues from redundancy," he told delegates.


It's very sad that you have to rely on everyone collecting bits of foil and paper so we can be adequately resourced

Angie Rutter, primary school teacher
The union's general secretary, Peter Smith, said: "Conscientious teachers feel they have no option but to prop up a system that provides inadequate funding.

"Teachers, particularly in primary schools, are having to dig deep into their pockets to make up the government's shortfall, particularly in deprived areas."

The union is calling for primary school funding to be increased, so that the same amount is spent per pupil as in secondary schools.

Nikki Saunders, who is a primary school teacher at Chelmsford in Essex, told the conference everyone knew primary schools were the "Cinderella schools".

"You get used to begging, in a polite way, as a teacher, but the shortfall makes our job impossible to do."

Government supports vouchers

The government has dismissed the union's complaints.

A spokesman said: "The ATL is talking complete nonsense. We are spending 540 more per pupil in real terms between 1997-2001. We know that a greater proportion of that is being spent in primary schools.

"The government has no problem with voucher schemes. They are providing peripheral help, not mainstream help.

"They are enabling more pupils to read and use computers."

Some teachers complain that the voucher schemes are geared towards creating consumers of tomorrow.

Angie Rutter is concerned about the way schemes run by supermarkets and manufacturers put pressure on children and parents to buy certain foods.

"The children feel good about contributing and helping to get extra equipment.

"It is a community exercise, but it is also consumerism. There is a subtle pressure which says that by eating this bag of crisps or drinking that drink, you will help your school."

See also:

07 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
20 Jun 00 | UK Education
23 Mar 00 | UK Education
12 May 00 | UK Education
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