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EDITIONS
Friday, 1 June, 2001, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Schools urged to employ bursars
Etelle Morris
School standards minister Estelle Morris addressed head teachers
By BBC News Online's Katherine Sellgren at the NAHT conference in Harrogate

Schools will be encouraged to employ bursars to manage their financial affairs if Labour wins a second term of office.

The party says bursars will become increasingly important as heads gain more and more financial autonomy.

It has committed itself to providing 1,000 training places a year for school bursars.

Applications might come from existing staff who wanted to develop extra skills, or from those looking for full-time appointments, sources said.

The courses would be organised by the National College of School Leadership and would offer a mix of online and residential training.

'Support'

Heads themselves would have a say in how the courses would be developed and would also be involved in decisions on course content, the sources indicated.

In an address to delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers' conference in Harrogate, the school standards minister Estelle Morris emphasised the government's recognition of the need for greater administrative support in schools.

She urged all secondary heads to appoint at least a part-time bursar, and primary heads to consider options for sharing such an appointee.

"We are desperate to encourage bursars and very much hope small schools would share a bursar," she told the conference.

A lot of the pressure felt by heads was from the administrative and financial tasks they should be freed from, she said.

Independent and many former grant-maintained schools employ bursars, she said.

Teacher recruitment

Ms Morris said she recognised the need to recruit more teachers, but she did not call the current shortage a "crisis".

Delegates in the conference hall muttered "crisis" when she spoke of a recruitment "problem".

The minister dismissed claims by the NAHT's general secretary, David Hart, that the current situation made England look like a Third World country, saying his comments were an insult to schools and to Third World countries.

She claimed that over the past four years there had been more teachers in schools than at any time since 1984.

Head teachers now had more direct funds and had created more teaching positions as a result, she said.

Ms Morris told heads part of the problem of recruitment was down to the fact that the economy was strong and that they were not urging their brightest pupils and their own children to go into the profession.

Private contractors

She also announced that the government was considering changing legislation so that schools could buy services from private contractors.

Currently it is not easy for schools to hire services from sources other than local education authorities and private companies are generally used only in failing schools.

"If heads feel they get a service better delivered from the private rather than public sector, then we want to free them up to do so," Estelle Morris said.

"What we want to do is amend the legislation so that if you're good, you can use the private sector willingly.

"Our minds are open to innovative ways of managing schools."

Thanking heads for all their hard work, Ms Morris said she made no apology for the many changes brought in over the past four years, saying that pace of change was necessary.

"We wanted change, not because all schools were bad, far from it, but because previous governments had failed to modernise schools," she said.

Omissions

Afterwards, the general secretary of the NAHT, David Hart, was sceptical about Ms Morris's speech to delegates.

"It was interesting what she didn't talk about - she didn't mention workload or staff contracts at all," Mr Hart said.

Come 8 June, the in-coming government needed to sit down and sort out teacher shortages and teachers' contracts, he said .

"Everything else pales into insignificance, otherwise there will be some quite significant industrial action."

See also:

30 Mar 01 | UK Education
09 Feb 01 | UK Education
29 May 01 | Forum
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