Letter: 'Loony left' borough that is now suffering under the 'loony right'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Buckley's letter 'Bad old days in the borough of Brent' (29 January) contains a lot of truth and a statement of many laudable objectives. I also lived in Brent between 1986 and 1990 and bore witness to local politics out of control and out of touch with the wishes of a majority of electors. Regrettably the pendulum now appears to be swinging from 'loony left' to 'loony right'.

If the council votes to support the budget proposals of the current Conservative administration, it will be able to add the destruction of primary school education to its achievements. Primary schools in Brent will be trapped in a complex web of legislation and controls woven by central government and the current Brent administration.

The consequence is that under the local management of schools funding formula, the new budget allocations for a number of primary schools are insufficient to place a teacher in front of every class and pay the minimum costs of rates, heating and lighting.

As an example, I would offer the following details for the school of which I am a governor.

1 The school is very popular, with a full roll of 240 children in eight classes and long waiting lists for all year groups.

2 We have eight full-time class teachers (including the deputy head) and two part-time teachers (equivalent to one teacher) to support 'special needs' children and providing less than the recommended non-contact time for the class teachers. Like all schools in Brent, we have many children with learning difficulties and speaking English as a second language.

3 To raise the teachers' non-contact time, the headteacher is teaching for at least 50 per cent of her time.

4 We have inherited from Brent pay and conditions contracts for our staff over which we have no legal means of control. Most of our staff are experienced, dedicated teachers at the top of their pay scales.

5 The draft budget allocation for our school (recent history indicates that this is prone to reduction before it is finalised) is pounds 341,288.

6 The salaries for our staff (teaching and non-teaching) next year will, as a minimum, be pounds 311,980 and the sum of the rates, heating, lighting and cleaning cost for the school are pounds 34,121. (This excludes all grounds and building maintenance.) This year Brent has delegated to us responsibility to pay for contractural maternity leave and long-term sickness. We have two teachers who will require maternity leave next year at a cost of approximately pounds 30,000.

7 Without the educational niceties of books, paper and pencils, it requires little mathematical skill to recognise that Brent has made our small successful primary school bankrupt. Could the spectre of 'loony Brent' be rising again?

Yours sincerely,

A. J. CARTER

Chair of Governors

Malorees Junior School

London, NW6

30 January

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