Education: How they put a price on a pupils head: High costs at high school

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The Independent Online
Thirteen-year-old pupils at Droylsden High School for girls, Tameside, near Manchester

Price per head: pounds 1,558 pa

Books and equipment allowance: pounds 37.35 each pa

Class size: 25 for English, maths, science, technology; 30 for everything else

Teachers' paid preparation time: four hours per week

Support staff: four clerical assistants, secretary, 2 1/2 technicians

Special facilities: six labs, five technology rooms, two gymnasiums, dance and drama suite

THERE are 50 teachers at Droylsden, teaching 873 girls aged 11 to 16. The school is comprehensive but attracts high-flyers: it offers pupils a choice between French, German and Russian, for example, making some smaller groups inevitable. It pays out thousands of pounds in GCSE entry fees each year: on average pounds 120 per pupil and, for those taking 10 subjects, pounds 140.

Droylsden's specialist teachers spend their paid time away from the classroom not only in planning and marking lessons but in pastoral work, says the headteacher, Barry Wilson: 'There is careers guidance, health education, sex education, records of achievement, seeing parents and welfare officers, and growing- up problems, which can all be very time-consuming.'

The heads of Droylsden's larger faculties, such as English or science, often manage more teachers than the entire staff of a primary school, yet their salaries do not compare with a primary headteacher's, Mr Wilson says. But they, and the management team, have to be paid extra allowances - hence the school's larger wages bill.

Eleven-year-olds coming into the school may seem little different from top juniors, Mr Wilson says, but they are using costly specialist facilities as soon as they arrive. They also need to be taught in smaller groups; so he took on two new teachers this year to bring down class sizes.

Mr Wilson knows his primary counterparts would love to follow suit: 'If I was in their shoes I would protest. But we've all had to put in extra time to deliver the national curriculum, and you can't solve the problem of primary school funding by reallocating money from secondary schools.'

(Photograph omitted)

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