School pays pupils £37,000 exams bonus


Last updated at 07:56 17 November 2005

A school has paid more than £37,000 in bonuses to pupils for passing their exams.

The City Academy in Bristol used Government cash to hand GCSE students an average of £180 each.

One pupil pocketed £410, while 17 A-level students shared £8,500 in bonuses for winning university places.

Teaching unions say the payouts could have been put to better use - and the headteacher has been forced to deny they were bribes.

The school, in one of the most deprived areas of the country, was set up three years ago to replace a school struggling at the bottom of Bristol's league tables. As one of Tony Blair's much-vaunted city academies, it was promised private funding.

Its bonus scheme gave GCSE pupils £10 for every predicted grade they matched and another £5 for each grade they managed above expectation.

On top of that, any pupil achieving at least five grade Cs at GCSE received a lump sum of £150.

The total payout of £37,185 was more than £10,000 higher than the school spent last year.

The school said its deprived pupils deserved rewards for doing well and claimed it was no different from high-income parents giving their children cash or expensive gifts if they worked hard for their exams.

Ray Priest, head of the 1,300-pupil school, added: 'If you work out the time they put into their studies, it really is a pittance they're getting - probably a few pennies an hour.'

The proportion of students gaining at least five A-C grades has risen from 26 per cent to 52 per cent since the 'performancerelated pay' scheme began at the school three years ago.

But the National Union of Teachers said: 'These incentives do seem high. One wonders why the academy has so much spare cash and if it would be better used for every child's education.'