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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Schools cash in after councils shamed
Pressure on local councils to pass on more money to schools has paid off, according to figures published on Thursday.
Almost all the local authorities in England have met the government's target for the percentage of their budgets they should delegate to schools.
The overall cash increase schools have received from councils comes to a total of £385m.
Last year, education ministers "named and shamed" local education authorities which they believed were wasting money on bureaucracy, instead of passing on more funds to schools.
This year, the percentage of local authority education budgets passed directly to schools ranges from 79.8% in Cornwall to 89.8% in Southend.
The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said too many LEAs were depriving schools and their pupils of much-needed funding, and that this year, all authorities should delegate a minimum of 80% of their budgets to schools.
Now that the 80% target has virtually been met, it has been increased to 85% for next year, 2001/02 - a figure already attained this year by 49 councils.
The figures also show that the amount of money authorities spend, per pupil, on administration, has also dropped.
After revealing last year that councils were spending up to £167 per pupil on bureaucracy (in Kensington and Chelsea), Mr Blunkett set targets of £75 per pupil in London, and £65 per pupil elsewhere.
The government says it expects to see the decrease continue next year, when the targets will each by lowered by £5.
Revealing this year's spending figures, the Education Department said the improvement was a direct result of the government's fair funding system, which has given head teachers greater control over some aspects of their budgets.
Heads now have increased financial responsibility for school meals, building repairs and maintenance, and a range of other support services including personnel and financial administration.
Mr Blunkett said: "We have a substantial increase in the amount of money going to schools. This year's increase brings to about £1bn the amount of increased delegation since 1997.
"Some local education authorities who were spending too much on red tape have met our targets on cutting red tape, and some have seen reductions by one third or more.
"We set out our tough new approach for the first time last year to ensure that schools got the maximum amount due to them.
"Since 1997 we have given schools substantially increased control over the funding which the government has provided for primary and secondary education."
Nationally, delegated funding per pupil had gone up this year by almost 10% - just over £210.
This reflected both an increase in the overall level of funding, as well as improvements in the level of delegation .
Mr Blunkett said head teachers and schools were seeing the benefits of the government's no-nonsense approach, but stressed that he wanted to see a "much greater number" of LEAs come near the level of the best delegators.
At the beginning of the month, the education secretary told the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers about proposals to allocate money for schools in England directly to them, instead of LEAs.
The idea is one of a range of options that will be in a government consultation document on the funding system, to be published later in the year.
His Conservative shadow, Theresa May, said Mr Blunkett was "all talk".
"We will give schools their budgets directly, and allow them the freedom to spend it as they think best," she said.
"If David Blunkett wants heads to have freedom over their budgets, why did they reject just such proposals put forward by the Conservatives in the House of Commons on Tuesday?"
The Association of Chief Education Officers welcomed the publication of the figures, saying they showed that most LEAs offered good value for money.
But it warned ministers against trying to force LEAs into passing on more than 85% of their funds to schools.
Chairman Graham Badman said: "Failure to exercise such caution could result in LEAs having insufficient resources to deal with key issues such as special needs and raising standards."
Head teachers could also find themselves "at risk of distraction from their main task of raising pupil achievement in accord with government policy", he added.
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