Heads pay teachers too much - Clarke

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Headteachers were accused last night of contributing to the school-funding crisis through paying their teachers too much.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, told MPs on the Commons Select Committee on Education that schools were allocating too much of their budgets to teachers' salaries.

Questioned by MPs about a survey in The Independent which indicated that one in five schools were asking parents to bail them out of financial difficulties, Mr Clarke said it revealed "a number of schools which were spending very, very high proportions of their income'' on salaries.

Impington Village College in Cambridgeshire said 96 per cent of its budget had been allocated to salaries and that its pay costs had risen by 20 per cent. Mr Clarke said: "That is a very, very large proportion. It raises the question for me about the way in which we manage our school budgets.''

He suggested that ministers should be questioning whether there was any way more money could go into resources such as books and equipment rather than pay.

At the heart of the argument is a disagreement between ministers and headteachers over performance-related pay. Heads have insisted that almost all their senior staff should qualify for merit rises of £1,100 a year, whereas Mr Clarke wants to limit the number to one in three.

Mr Clarke told MPs there would be stricter controls over how local education authorities distributed money to schools, and that he wanted to ensure that every school had a minimum level of funding per pupil. This would allow all schools to have an increase in real terms in their funding per pupil in 2004-5.

Mr Clarke acknowledged that this year's funding crisis had been "demoralising'' for schools.

"I have no doubt that the events of this summer on school funding led to serious demoralisation amongst many teachers and governors,'' he said. "It is extremely unfortunate that this state of events has emerged precisely because it has caused demoralisation and it has damaged the reputation of myself and my department.''

However, he insisted that the Department for Education and Skills and local education authorities had a "shared responsibility'' for the funding situation in schools.

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