LETTER : School funding does not add up

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Government seems to be of the opinion that grammar schools are better (report, 11 March). Most parents, on snobbish grounds, would prefer their young hopeful to be a failure in an academic environment than a potential success in a school covering a wider ability range. Therefore, build more grammar schools.

How are these to be afforded? At present, schools all over the country are in serious need of new buildings and a long-term maintenance programme, after many years of gross under-funding. No problem. Schools can borrow money, obtain sponsorship and create new opportunities, academic and vocational.

As a governor of a grant-maintained school I have just learned that there will be no capital bid this year as the Funding Agency for Schools is broke. From our existing GM funding grant our excess of income over expenditure is less than 2 per cent.

Suppose some great-hearted financier decided to lend us pounds 500,000 for a badly needed new building, charged zero interest and told us that we could start repaying the capital after two years over a five-year period. We put up our building, take in 100 new pupils, and in the third year have to find pounds 100,000 to repay. The new pupils provide us with pounds 200,000 at current capitation levels of which pounds 160,000 is taken by teachers' salaries, pounds 25,000 in overhead costs, leaving us with pounds 15,000 of the required pounds 100,000. Even over 25 years, the sums simply fail to add up.

David Smyth

West Malling, Kent