THOSE of us who learned arithmetic in the days when the main incentive schools had for good performances was the good, old-fashioned dedication of their staff will be able to reckon without calculators what it costs taxpayers now that cash bonuses are paid for better results.

For given that sums of around £5,700 were bestowed on the 50-plus primaries benefiting in this year's school achievement awards and some £25,700 went to the secondaries which were among the 100 East Lancashire schools rewarded by the scheme, at least £600,000 has been paid out.

Yet nice as it may be for everyone involved in helping pupils achieve high or improved test results to end up with extra in their pay packets -- not just teachers, but even caretakers and dinner ladies, we are told -- isn't this scheme fundamentally flawed in principle?

For do not taxpayers have a right to expect school staff to do the job they are paid for in any case? -- which in the case of teachers is quite handsomely to begin with.

And while being puzzled how, with cleaner corridors or richer gravy, say, caretakers and dinner ladies might contribute to raised learning standards, I am even more perplexed by no fewer than 17 East Lancashire nursery schools being granted these bonuses.

Just what tests are sat by or academic yardsticks are applied to our toddlers, so that those looking after them at their nurseries might be judged to have turned out improved pupils?

Yet if cash incentives are part of the way education works nowadays, why not go the whole hog -- with the pay of staff at poorly performing schools being docked?

That, I'm sure, would be an even greater stimulus for excellence.