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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 00:11 GMT 01:11 UK
Schools' rich-poor divide
A rich-poor divide between UK schools, based on their ability to raise funds themselves, appears to be widening.
A report from a research charity suggests that in 1997/98, England's 23,000 state schools raised about £230m on top of their budgets.
However, the researchers estimate that almost as much, £210m, was raised by about only 850 independent secondary schools.
They point to a gap between the fundraising power of schools coping with high levels of deprivation and disadvantage, and those able to raise considerable money from parents, companies and charitable trusts.
The report's findings, published on Friday by the Directory of Social Change, are based on questionnaires returned by 1,000 English schools.
They indicate that about 21% of special schools, 20% of primary schools and 5% of secondary schools still raise less than £1,000 a year.
In contrast, 1% of primary schools raise more than £25,000 a year in extra income to spend on resources and equipment their budgets will not stretch to, including books, computers, school trips, playground facilities and sports equipment.
State secondary schools manage to raise considerably more than schools in the primary sector, with about 3% raising between £250,000 and £500,000.
However, it is the fundraising power of independent secondary schools which particularly stands out - about 38% raise more than £250,000, and 22% raise more than £500,000.
The report states: "Overall, the amounts raised by schools remain tiny in comparison with the billions invested in education by government.
"There are many other factors (including, for example, local authority boundaries and differences in the formulae of school delegated budgets) that can have far greater consequences on an individual school's finances.
"But at school level, where typically 90% of a school's budget is absorbed by salaries, fundraised voluntary income can make a difference, not least to equality of opportunity.
"Some maintained schools raise very little or nothing at all; a few others raise very large amounts indeed.
"This hidden financial fault line is running through the maintained sector, and widening, unobserved.
Impact on achievement
"It would be foolish to pretend that money plays no part in determining what a school has to offer, or what its pupils can achieve."
The report draws attention to the pressures on head teachers to manage fundraising activities, which it says they see as a time-consuming burden, and not always a cost-effective approach.
It says the "emerging bid culture", whereby many forms of official funding are only open to selected numbers of schools, or to schools working in partnership with others, requires detailed written applications, which adds to the pressure.
The report calls for policy guidance from the government, and for public debate, on the proper place of school fundraising in development programmes.
It proposes that "extra-curricular fundraising should be just that: not an assumed component of state schools' budgets, but raising support for items and projects that lie outside that which must be adequately resourced by central and local government".
It also suggests a number of other measures, including:
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the report was a matter of great concern.
He said: "The wide range of funds raised privately by schools - from nil to over £250,000 in the state sector and £500,000 in the independent sector - illustrates the inequity in society, as much as between schools.
"The figures provide a further graphic illustration of the growing disparity between schools and the need for a national funding entitlement for schools, with a built-in index of disadvantage.
"The report's statistics demonstrate clearly why government policy on school funding must not rely on schools raising money themselves."
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the report had underestimated "the level of external contributions to a significant degree".
The reality was that schools had obtained very large quantities of books and equipment through special initiatives run by companies such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Walkers Crisps and Times Newspapers, he said.
"The report is valuable because it confirms that the inequalities between primary and secondary schools and between the socially deprived and the affluent schools remains unacceptably wide.
"The message for the government is that despite its attempt to inject additional cash into school budgets, there is a long way to go before schools cease to be so dependent on outside sources."
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The current funding system for maintained schools and LEAs delivers extra funding for children in deprived areas.
"Some £3bn is allocated to LEAs on the basis of additional educational needs - clearly dwarfing the £230m which the report estimates as the total funding raised by all primary and secondary schools."
He said the report used financial information from 1997/98 and did not take into account the "substantial increases in expenditure on schools since then".
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