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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Push for fairer school funding
Margaret Beale
Margaret Beale welcomed the help of local authorities
By Gary Eason at the NASUWT conference in Jersey

Teachers say schools in England and Wales need a fairer system of funding and they want the government to act urgently to come up with something that is "effective, efficient and manageable".

At the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) annual conference, delegates complained about the way schools had to bid for and evaluate the use of funding from a variety of sources.

"The whole thing is a nonsense," said Peter Simkins. It was "bureaucracy gone bonkers".

Sue Rogers condemned the government's "cowardly failure" in its published proposals for the reform of local government finance to tackle inequities.

  • Hartlepool education authority spent 1,295 per pupil per year on its primary schools, she said
  • Derby spent 1,437
  • Leeds spent 1,922
  • Neath Port Talbot spent 2,046.
That range meant a difference of about 126,000 between what schools at either end were getting.

"There's a degree of injustice to what those children in Hartlepool are receiving compared to the children in Neath Port Talbot," she said. "Why?"

She said there should be a system based on the staffing levels that were required to deliver the national curriculum - "based on need not numbers".

Standard spending assessments

Tim Beech from Leicestershire complained about the complex formula by which government assesses how much different areas should get - resulting in his areas having 373 per secondary pupil less than Hertfordshire.

Peter Simkins
"Bureaucracy gone bonkers," said Peter Simkins

He had chosen that as an example because the inspectorate, Ofsted, had compared his local education authority with that in Hertfordshire - unfavourably.

"We believe we should get the same funding, not based on a postcode lottery," he said.

It meant a difference of 50,000 to a typical 250-pupil primary school.

"Just think what you could do with all that extra money."

Tim Cox, a Welsh member of the union's executive, said there were no assessments of the necessary spending levels in Wales.

"So local councils can set how much they want into education budgets. How much or how little," he added.

Bottom of the tables

The difference between Ceredigion at the top and Vale of Glamorgan at the bottom was 1,000 per pupil.

Stuart Merry said Bury was at the bottom of the tables of spending per pupil in primary schools and secondary schools.

Without the direct grants to schools announced by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in the Budget, his school would have had a deficit in excess of 61,000. The "windfall" was not providing anything extra.

"When we get back after discussing teacher shortages all this week we will be discussing redundancies," he said.

Bill Howell spoke of years of underfunding in Staffordshire. He said head teachers, worried that cuts were ahead, had let their reserves spiral up to the point where they totalled 14m - but the local education authority was "skint".

Need for LEAs

Now that the government had set a target of 90% of the money for schools being delegated to them, core services - which heads wanted the authority to keep doing - would have to be cut.

He said that under any reforms of the system there had to be local education authorities (LEAs) big enough to function effectively and to benefit from economies of scale.

Primary school head teacher Margaret Beale said that because of delegated spending she found herself having to organise tenders for building work instead of organising quality education. She needed the experts the LEA provided.

Roger Kirk said he had a message for the Conservative education spokeswoman, Theresa May, who has promised to cut back LEAs to give more money to schools: "We don't want further delegation."

The conference unanimously condemned the government for failing tackle the inequalities in the present funding system.

See also:

19 Sep 00 | UK Education
15 Sep 00 | UK Education
01 Jun 00 | UK Education
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