Schools Splash out on Software, Not Books; IN ONE YEAR, [Pounds Sterling]426m GOES ON COMPUTER GEAR BUT LIBRARIES GET JUST [Pounds Sterling]150m

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA CLARK

SCHOOLS are spending nearly three times as much on computer software as they are on books, figures have revealed.

Heads have increased funding for educational computer programmes by 50 per cent while reducing the amount spent replenishing libraries.

Spending on exam fees, insurance and buildings maintenance is also outstripping outlay on books.

An analysis of how state primary and secondary schools in England have allocated their budgets since 2002 reveals a sharp increase in expenditure on ' ICT learning resources'. Spending rose 50 per cent to [pounds sterling]426.3million in 2004-2005. This did not even include spending on computer suites - only software, accessories and equipment such as computerised whiteboards.

In the same year, schools spent just [pounds sterling]150million on books - even though evidence is inconclusive that classroom computers help raise standards.

Studies have already shown that nearly half of secondary school pupils are forced to share books. But the cost of putting pupils in for GCSEs and A-levels also dwarfs spending on books. Secondary schools spent [pounds sterling]197million on exam fees in 2004-2005.

Meanwhile, the costs of insuring schools against mishaps ranging from theft and fire to bullying and pupil accidents hit [pounds sterling]293million.

For the analysis, the Times Educational Supplement used Government figures to see how schools spent their [pounds sterling]27billion collective budgets in 2004-2005.

Staff salaries account for most of the budget - [pounds sterling]16billion on teachers, [pounds sterling]3billion on teaching assistants and nearly [pounds sterling]3billion on administrators. A total of [pounds sterling]550.5million was spent on buildings maintenance and [pounds sterling] 491.2million on catering supplies, including food and contracts with private catering firms.

Administrative supplies such as stationery soaked up [pounds sterling]379million, while a further [pounds sterling]383million went on supply teachers hired from agencies. …