Cash-strapped school seeks sponsorship for lavatories

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The Independent Online
Parents at a Derbyshire primary school, where the annual bill for toilet paper is more than the sum available for books, have come up with a new idea for raising desperately-needed funds: invite sponsorship for the lavatories. They may also put up the desks, chairs and stationery for commercial backing.

Once salaries and overheads are paid, Bishop Pursglove Church of England Primary School in Tideswell, Derbyshire has just pounds 260 left to buy books, pens, pencils, stationery and maths equipment over the next 12 months. Its annual outlay on toilet paper for its 166 pupils and seven staff is pounds 500.

Now the "friends" association wants sponsorship from a toilet paper manufacturer to help to bridge the gap.

Despite the need to fund a teachers' pay rise and to accommodate extra pupils, the school has suffered a pounds 4,000 budget cut. It has already decided to cut one teacher's hours by half and to increase class sizes, taking the average to 33.

Parents have worked out the school needs another pounds 26,000, on top of its present budget of nearly pounds 200,000, to take it back to the level of funding it enjoyed in 1980, when its pupil numbers were the same as they are now.

Parents and staff say that Bishop Pursglove loses out in comparison with other schools, and that Derbyshire loses out in comparison with other counties. Their school's funding of pounds 1,177 per pupil is pounds 734 less than the pounds 1,911 the Government says Derbyshire should spend, and almost pounds 900 less than Hertfordshire's allowance of pounds 2,074.

Members of the Friends of Bishop Pursglove School are writing to major companies which make items such as toilet paper, chairs, desks and stationery to ask them for help.

They are also holding a series of events including a "promises auction" in which one well-wisher will offer to do a family's ironing for a week in return for help for the school. Some of the children will work the streets as buskers during Tideswell's annual well-dressing ceremony, which attracts crowds of tourists to the town.

Other pupils have already raised pounds 800 in ticket sales for the school play. Normally the takings are spent on something the children will enjoy such as a new computer or some stage lighting, but this year it will have to be spent on essential equipment.

The chairman of governors, Canon Martin Hulbert, has written 20 letters to the local Conservative MP, Charles Hendry, and has organised meetings at the school both with him and with local politicians. Although he is determined that its budget problems will not affect the quality of education, he admits they will make life more difficult for its staff.

"I think it is just dreadful that this church school is caught between these people," he said. "I think education is underfunded both nationally and locally. It's ludicrous that the amount of money we get depends on where we live in the country."

Mr Hendry accepts that Derbyshire loses out in comparison with some other areas but lays most of the blame on the county council. It has redirected funds from primary schools to the under-fives and has failed to cut surplus places, he says. He also believes it could save money on school meal subsidies.

The county blames the Government, saying that not only is Derbyshire one of the worst-funded areas in the country but also the whole pot is too small. Its politicians say that the county's under-fives policy is popular and that the price of school meals has already been increased.

The school's parents do not all agree on what should be done. Some of them believe that, as in the past, they should stick to running discos and bazaars to raise money for extras. Once they start to raise money for essentials, they argue, they paper over the cracks created by chronic Government neglect and compromise the principle that state education should be free.

But Lesley Burke, mother of two daughters at the school and one of those heading the sponsorship campaign, says: "What good are principles when your child's education is at stake?"