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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Cautious welcome for education cash
Mick Brookes
Mick Brookes: Counting the pennies
For primary school head teacher Mick Brookes, Gordon Brown's announcement of more money for education means he might be able to avoid making a teacher redundant.

But Mr Brookes, head of Sherwood Junior School, Warsop, Nottinghamshire, added: "It depends what the strings are."

Mr Brown said his direct grants to primary school head teachers next year would be an extra 10,000 more than a typical-sized school was expecting already.

What he did not say was that the extra money would not be on the same basis as the existing grants, which go to all schools to use as they wish.

Sources at the Department for Education indicated there would be "strings attached" - details to be revealed on Tuesday by the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

Angry parents

Mr Brookes' budget is 25,000 short - or about 6% above inflation, coincidentally just the increase Mr Brown has promised UK education for each of the next three years.

"That might just do us," Mr Brookes said.

"It depends how many other things we have got to pay for - and how it filters through: for example our 5.7% this year turns out to be 4.3%.

"There are good reasons for that but that doesn't help me."

Mr Brookes warns that the government must address the regional inequalities in school funding.

"In this neck of the woods parents are really fed up that we are getting so much less than average," he said.

"Unless parents can see that we really are making headway, in terms of average funding - I guess that anger is going to turn into folks not voting."

Teacher shortages

The funding announcements were greeted with caution by Felicity Bunker, a maths teacher at Foxford School in Coventry.

She said that extra money for schools would not be much use unless they could find enough teachers. And she would have been more impressed if the chancellor had addressed how teacher shortages might be resolved.

There was also some suspicion about the direct payments promised to schools.

"I'm sceptical about this money and will want to see how much of it will come with strings attached," said Ms Bunker, who is also an honorary treasurer of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Education's "Cinderella"

Mr Brown said Education Secretary Estelle Morris would be announcing new money for further education, a sector which has long complained of being the "Cinderella" of the education sector.

The announcement was welcomed by chief executive of Waltham Forest College in north east London, Carol Gibson, but she expressed doubts about the need for "tough targets" also promised by the chancellor alongside the cash.

Carol Gibson
College principal Carol Gibson: "We don't need beating up"
"Is there ever a challenge we haven't risen to?

"I don't think we need beating up - tell us what the parameters are, give us time to prepare our colleges and the funds to do it and we have a track record second to none," she said.

"We have responded well to targets, but people need to understand the complexities of achieving those targets."

Ms Gibson said the job of college principals was becoming more and more inventive as they sought to find the money to fund a 2.3% pay rise for lecturers, increased employer National Insurance contributions and higher insurance premiums since 11 September 2001.

"It's a bit like training all your life to play hockey to be told you are now playing rugby and your team is three people down - and then being told you're not doing very well."

Ms Gibson welcomed the plans to extend educational maintenance allowance (EMA) across the country, saying this had allowed many students to stay on in education.

"For many it means the difference between coming to college and not. And it impacts on the retention of students - so often they drop out because they can't afford it."

Universities

Higher education has been largely kept guessing for the time being - with a review of the sector promised for October.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England was pleased by the government's commitment to science and the "recognition of the role that education plays as a major driver of economic competitiveness and social inclusion".

The chief executive of Universities UK, Diana Warwick, said the increased money for science, while welcome, was only one element of universities' needs.

"Our 9.94bn submission was not a wish list - universities need to know that their funding needs will be met to meet the government's own targets," she said.

"The chancellor's comment that children can't be equipped for the 21st Century in out-of-date classrooms applies equally to higher education."

The government's plans for future spending are published on 15 July

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15 Apr 02 | UK Education
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