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Friday, 15 September, 2000, 02:21 GMT 03:21 UK
Heads call for 'fairer' school funding
pupils in class
Similar schools can get different amounts per pupil
The two main head teachers' unions in England have set out joint proposals to reform the funding system which sees similar schools in different areas getting very different amounts of money.

In a joint statement issued today, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) advocate a direct national funding system.

They say the government's forthcoming consultation document on the whole future of local government finance - expected next week - provides an opportunity for fresh thinking.

It is widely accepted that the existing system produces inequities between schools, placing widely different amounts on the "value" of each pupil in different local education authorities.

The key principles of the head teachers' unions' proposed system are:

  • a national funding formula calculated at individual school level
  • equal funding for the same needs
  • related to the requirements of the age-related "key stages" in the curriculum
  • additional money for special educational needs and social deprivation
  • separate funding for local education authorities.

The NAHT's general secretary, David Hart, said the proposed Green Paper on council funding brought a "lifetime opportunity" to change a system "which has passed its sell-by-date".

"Heads are not prepared to tolerate much longer an unfair funding process that bears no relationship to the demands placed upon them," he said.

'Buck-passing'

His counterpart in the secondary heads association, John Dunford, said an increasingly national system of education required a national funding system that was "adequate, transparent and equitable".

John Dunford
John Dunford: "Most other matters are national"
He said the unions' ideas would avoid "the blame and buck-passing between central and local government which has happened so often in recent years."

One of the main reasons the unions see this as an increasingly urgent problem is that schools are getting more and more money direct, rather than through the local authority formula.

"The Standards Fund alone will increase by a third from 2.2bn this year to 2.9bn for 2000-2001," their proposal says.

"It is questionable how fair this funding is. For schools, access to this funding depends upon LEA willingness and ability to provide matched funding.

'No justice'

"Over the past few years, these short-life and unpredictable funding streams have represented a high proportion of schools' income, increasing differentials and schools' inability to plan."

The government has increased its direct funding to schools, with one-off payments announced by the Chancellor over the past two years. About a tenth of their money now comes in this way.

"It is unlikely that schools will ever receive all the funding that they could use," they say.

"Unquestionably, different schools have different needs, but there is no justice in schools with the same needs profile receiving vastly different funding simply because they are located hundreds of miles apart, or, as in some instances, hundreds of metres apart."

They also want to see a debate on the role of the LEAs and their relationship with schools.

In a BBC News Online webcast this week, the Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, agreed that the present funding system was "unsatisfactory".

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Education
Direct funding for schools
31 May 00 | Unions 2000
Heads complain of funding unfairness
23 Mar 00 | Education
How schools get their money
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