All's not fair in the bidding war

In the 18 months since being elected to power, Labour has promised more than #163;20 billion extra for education by 2001. But ministers haven't just given local authorities the cash; they have made them bid for almost #163;1 billion so far.

Councils have done so with varying degrees of success. They now have to compete against each other for cash to reduce the size of primary classes, for school repairs and even to get rid of outside toilets.

They must also bid for money for the National Literacy Strategy, for education action zones, and the National Grid for Learning.

Today The TES analyses just how every local authority has fared. We have looked at all the money won by schools and authorities since last year's general election and compared it with pupil rolls for January 1997.

We list the main winners and losers, and contrast the different experiences of two north London boroughs, Barnet and Enfield.

Barnet comes in at No 8 in the top 40 rankings of councils, with #163;151.30 per pupil, while its neighbour languishes at No 3 in the bottom 40, with a mere #163;42 per pupil since the election.

Early birds get pick of funding

By Jon Slater

Barnet was one of the biggest winners in the bidding process for central Government funds. The TES survey found that the London borough received an average of #163;151 per pupil - the eighth highest in England.

It did particularly well with bids for New Deal for Schools money - getting more per pupil than any other outer London borough.

Anne Jarvis, chair of the council's education committee, was delighted that the Department for Education and Employment had at last "recognised that Barnets leafy image conceals areas of serious social and economic deficit".However, when the #163;4 million going to Barnet's schools is contrasted with the #163;1.7m awarded to Enfield, its less affluent neighbour, it is clear other factors are at work.

Authority officials attributed their success to early preparation which allowed them to bid for larger sums in the first round of bidding. "Barnet started to act before the Education White Paper was published. (We) looked at raising achievement, investing in education ... this certainly helped with our bids."The council also made good use of the experience many staff already had of bidding for European money.

One school benefiting from Barnet's success is Copthall girls comprehensive. Headteacher Lynn Gadd said that local authority support was crucial in winning money for renovating part of the school which would otherwise have been unuseable.


Where: north-west London

Population: 320,000

Type: big, well-to-do borough, with pockets of social deprivation such as Burnt Oak and Colindale

Politics: minority Labour administration

Ethnic mix: one of outer London's most diverse boroughs

Schools: 121 maintained schools including 14 grant-maintained and 33 voluntary-aided. Ten private secondary schools, 21 state secondaries

Survey surprise for finance chief

Enfield's particularly poor showing in the TES survey caused one headteacher to call for greater transparency in the funding process.

And Tony Minchella, head of finance and resources in the education department, said he was surprised by the figures. "It would indicate we would have to review our bidding procedures if Enfield really did come third from bottom."

He said DFEE guidance was not clear when Enfield first bid for money to reduce class sizes. The bid was deemed "not to be cost-effective". The education authority had asked for money for extra part-time teachers for classes with more than 30 pupils but the Government wanted children to be grouped into "additional teaching units".

Enfield has now lodged a second bid which Mr Minchella hopes will meet with approval.

As for the capital grant, Mr Minchella said: "It would appear our schools are in better condition than other authorities, although there is an awful lot to do."

Giles Bird, head of Kingsmead comprehensive, admitted there was general bewilderment about the bidding process. "I think there is a bit of cynicism about this new release money. There is a sort of mystique about it.

"The Government's presentation is that it is putting a lot of money into education. But it is extremely difficult to see what is going on. The whole of school funding needs to be far more transparent."

Helen Whitecross, head of Fleecefield primary school in Edmonton, said: "It does not surprise me Enfield has come third from bottom.

"I have no complaints about National Literacy Strategy [funding] or the national grid [funding] but the capital funding has been appalling," she said.

Her school, which has doubled in size since 1991 from 222 to 430 pupils, has no music room, science room nor library. Pupils are taught music in the playground while books are kept in the cloakroom.

Robert Mendick

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