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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 16:51 GMT
Heads attack claims of 'hoarding' cash
Head teachers reacted angrily to claims by a major teachers' union that they had been "hoarding" three quarters of a billion pounds of unspent funding, while complaining of financial hardship.

According to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) heads failed to spend 764.14m - or 30,000 per school - in 1999/2000.

Alan Roach
Alan Roach says the money is saved for major projects
The NASUWT said statistics, gathered from local education authorities, showed some primary schools had as much as 250,000, while some secondaries had accrued more than 2m.

The union said such funds should be used to recruit more teachers and to boost the pay of existing staff.

But the NASUWT's research was criticised by other teachers' unions and head teachers, who said the findings were misleading.

Head's anger

The head of one of the schools "named and shamed" by the NASUWT - the Chalvedon School, Basildon, Essex - said it was quite legitimate for schools to carry money forward for major projects or contingency planning.

Alan Roach, whose school was listed as sitting on 589,653 in 1999/2000, said that money was used to build a new classroom block, including an area for the sixth form, and to upgrade the sports hall, changing facilities and toilets.


The NASUWT's figures are crude and misleading

David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers
"We did indeed carry funds over. But it's a bit like doing up your house - you won't have earned enough money in one year to build a new porch, so you save money up and plan the work according to when you have enough to pay for it," said Mr Roach.

He expressed anger at a suggestion by the NASUWT's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, that the money saved could somehow solve the teacher recruitment crisis.

"There is a shortage of teachers in this country, so no cash redistribution is going to magic teachers in our classrooms on Monday," said Mr Roach.

He also rejected claims that "rich" schools had money at the expense of those serving disadvantaged.

"My school serves the four most deprived wards in Essex and we have the highest level of free school meals in the county," he said.

'Appalling'

But Mr de Gruchy, maintained it was "appalling" that some schools could sit on millions of pounds while others needed more money for extra teachers and to meet the needs of children from disadvantaged communities.

"There can be no justification for schools with surplus cash not to offer decent wages to new recruits or existing staff," he said.

Nigel de Gruchy
Mr de Gruchy says the excess should be spent on staff
The money should be distributed fairly across the country according to need, he added.

Mr de Gruchy put the matter down to the fact that LEAs must devolve a high proportion of their education budget to schools, under the local management of schools (LMS) system.

"Many schools keep reserves as an insurance policy because the LEA no longer has spare cash. The amount schools hold back often exceeds the Audit Commission's guideline of 2% of total budget."

'Sensible reserves'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said it would not expect schools to build up large reserves of cash unless money was earmarked for a large project.

"In the future, we want to see schools spend the money given to them but we expect them to have sensible reserves to deal with any emergency that may arise," she said.

David Hart
Mr Hart dismissed the findings as crude and misleading
General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), David Hart, expressed anger at the NASUWT's research, saying the figures were crude and misleading.

"They take no account of the need to carry forward reasonable levels of contingency, nor do they even start to explain the simple basic fact that many schools have set aside specific sums to meet approved projects," said Mr Hart.

"Has the NASUWT bothered to find out why each of these schools have these sums unspent?"

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) said that, on average, schools had a very low level of reserve in comparison with other organisations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"The Audit Commission suggests schools withhold up to 5% of their budget"
NASUWT General Secretary Nigel de Gruchy
"There are instances of schools saving for capital projects"
See also:

28 Dec 01 | Education
Fairer school funding demanded
01 Jun 00 | Education
Direct funding for schools
31 May 00 | Unions 2000
Heads complain of funding unfairness
23 Mar 00 | Education
How schools get their money
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