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Sir Jeremy Beecham
"Centralised system won't reflect needs"
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David Blunkett
"New authorities for a new area."
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Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 09:16 GMT
'Storm warning' over education funding
education committee
Role of education authorities is in question
Local government leaders are warning ministers that there could be trouble over the future of education funding.

"I am laying down this marker because if proper discussions do not take place then there will be very stormy waters ahead for the government over this," said the Local Government Association's chairman, Sir Jeremy Beecham.

"Forty thousand schools the length and breadth of England and Wales cannot be properly run by Whitehall.

"We need a settled view of the responsibilities of local education authorities in meeting the needs of children and parents as well as being able to drive up standards based on local partnerships between councils, schools, and the private and voluntary sectors.

"The way forward is through local partnerships and modernisation, not government centralisation in London."

'Would have to invent them'

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said he had met local government leaders over breakfast on Wednesday and had told them: "If we didn't have local education authorities we would have to invent something like them.

"But they would be invented for an entirely new era," he said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What they are grumbling about is whether, in putting money direct into the hands of heads and governors as we did on Tuesday ... we are cutting out the middleman."

This is a reference to the government's decision to allocate 300m of the extra money for education in England announced in the Budget direct to schools to spend as they wish.

After the Budget, senior government sources played down the significance of the direct grants.

The mechanism had already been used to ensure full funding of the government's performance-related pay reforms, and would be used again for specific funding purposes, they said.

Under review

But it could not replace mainstream education funding distributed through local authorities without a change in the law.

In practice the money will still go via local education authorities (LEAs), but will be "ring fenced" so they have to pass it on in its entirety.

And it is the first time such direct grants have been made without any conditions on what the money is to be used for.

A review of local government funding is taking place in Whitehall, and the government is expected to issue proposals for consultation this summer on the future of education funding.

There is a widespread feeling that something needs to be done.

Head teachers and their unions have long complained about how the present system means that schools which are geographically neighbours, but lie within different education authority boundaries, often get widely different amounts per pupil.

Mr Blunkett said "most people now accept" this needed reforming.

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See also:

22 Mar 00 | Education
Councils accuse schools of hoarding
08 Feb 00 | Education
Call for fairer funding for schools
25 Jun 99 | Education
Councils accused of robbing schools
25 Jun 99 | Education
Fury over education spending figures
22 Apr 99 | Education
Schools 'robbed of 180m'
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