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Allocating resources for special needs

Peter Bibby's response to my letter (TES, May 26) about the use of Standard Spending Assessment figures to support his arguments about resource allocation for special education needs, repeats his original error in different words.

He says "the Government allocates substantial sums to local education authorities on the basis of estimated differences in education needs, and expects these differences to be reflected in school budgets".

This is strictly not the case. In evidence to the Environment Select Committee the responsible minister (David Curry) said that "the SSAs for individual local authorities are not meant to be hypothecated; and the individual elements are not intended to be used as spending targets for individual services or service blocks".

The SSA is a mechanism to distribute central government grant to local authorities that broadly reflects the relationship between need to spend on all services and the ability to raise revenue. The way that an authority uses resources to meet local needs is a matter for political decision in the light of all available information. The Additional Education Needs index component within the SSA is a proxy measure based on census data on lone parents, claimants and children of non-UK origin.

There are many ways in which the additional resource delivered by this indicator could be legitimately used for the benefit of the local community. Putting extra money into school budgets is only one of these.

ALAN PARKER

Association of Metropolitan Authorities

35 Great Smith Street

London SW1

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