Education: How they put a price on a pupils head: Extra pressure on primaries

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The Independent Online
Seven-and eight-year-old first year juniors at St Anne's, Denton, Tameside

Price per head: pounds 1,018 pa

Books and equipment allowance: pounds 30.40 each per year

Class size: 34 children

One class teacher for all subjects

Teachers' paid preparation time: 1 1/2 hours per week

Support staff: one nursery nurse, one secretary

Special facilities: tarmac playground

ST ANNE'S, a Victorian school in suburban Manchester, has 215 pupils aged 4 to 11, and 8 1/2 teachers including Barry Dawson, the headteacher. He remembers the time when Year Three children would have been excited to create an electrical circuit and light a bulb. 'Now they do that in the infants' class. These elder children have to apply their knowledge; they might use switches and design a burglar alarm. Their teacher, who also teaches them reading and maths, as well as about the Aztecs and life in Indian villages, now has to know how to use saws and drills, and how to make joints and axles; and also has to supervise 34 of them. Of course they can't all do it at once, but it's very demanding.'

Every primary school teacher now has not only to cover much more material under the national curriculum, but also to co-ordinate one or two subjects throughout the school. The Year Three class teacher is also the school geography co-ordinator. In her 1 1/2 hours' guaranteed free time each week, she not only has to plan and mark 34 sets of work, but has to advise other teachers on compass games for four- year-olds and sophisticated map and computer work for the brightest 10-year-olds.

If she needs to go on a course for this, her class must be taught by the half-time teacher, or by Mr Dawson. He spends a third of the week teaching or escorting children to the swimming pool or sports hall; the national curriculum insists on specialist PE teaching, which St Anne's has to buy in, as well as paying for the transport.

It all means time and money, which Mr Dawson cannot then spend on putting more than one nursery nurse in with 32 reception children, or on reducing class sizes. 'I just don't see why it is supposed to be easier to educate younger children in larger groups,' he says. 'It seems a very strange assumption to me.'

(Photograph omitted)

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