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LGA PRESSES GOVERNMENT ON EDUCATION PLANS

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The Local Government Association have suggested a plan to cut teachers' holidays by as much as five weeks in return...
The Local Government Association have suggested a plan to cut teachers' holidays by as much as five weeks in return for big salary increases, reports The Independent (p1).

They are also asking the government to spend an extra£6bn on education. However, teachers leaders said they would only consider the change in working conditions if they were given a 50% pay increase.

Under the LGA plan, the five weeks cut from holidays would be used for in-service training, staff meetings, parents evenings and lesson preparation, meaning teachers would not have to work such long hours.

Members of the LGA last week met David Blunkett, the education secretary, to discuss ways of raising standards. They believe their proposals will strengthen the argument for more cash from the Treasury.

Graham Lane, the LGA's education chairman, said: 'Teachers need modern conditions and rewards - especially those who are helping to raise standards - but they must realise the present system of holidays no longer works.'

He added: 'If local education authorities are to drive up standards in schools the government must be prepared to spend money. Proper rewards and better conditions of work for teachers, in return for a modernised contract for employees and cutting class sizes, are the main ways we can attract high-quality people into the service and also retain good teachers already working in the profession.'

However, Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of School Teachers Union of Women Teachers, said: 'We are not going to contemplate this kind of thing unless there is a massive pay rise in the region of 50%.'

Meanwhile, The Financial Times (p9) reports that LEAs are threatening to cut school budgets if ministers press ahead with plans to expand the principle of grant-maintained status and hand over the purse strings to headteachers.

Stephen Byers, the school standards mnister, last month unveiled plans to let every school have a bank account, a cheque book and the right to accrue interest. This would hold schools' traditional funds, as well as extra funds - transferred from LEAs - to pay for a range of services currently carried out by local authorities, including school meals, pay roll, libraries and routine maintenance.

But Mr Lane has dismissed the plans as 'a piece of financial nonsense'. He said it would encourage schools to 'hoard' money and so add to the bank of 'unspent money' that headteachers have accumluated since state schools were first given control of 85% of their budgets ten years ago.

He also said that any interest made by the schools would be cancelled out by bank charges. LEAs, meanwhile would each lose out by at least£2m - the amount earned by investing schools' money on the stockmarket. 'This is assumed income and if we lose it then we will have no choice but to cut schools' money.'

The LEAs only want schools to have 'notional bank accounts' which cannot make interest. He said the amount of interest schools could earn would be 'chicken feed' compared to the amount LEAs regularly make each year.

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