Call to end ‘stark variability’ in school funding

'Key ingredients' of funding and staffing must be fairly distributed among Scottish schools, says leading headteacher

Call to end ‘stark variability’ in school funding

The new president of Scotland’s secondary headteachers’ organisation has hit out at the “stark variability” in staffing and funding between schools in Scotland.

Billy Burke – who today takes over as president of School Leaders Scotland (SLS) from Elgin Academy’s David Barnett – will this morning say that “equity of input” for schools is vital if the Scottish government wants to achieve its well-publicised education goals such as closing the attainment gap.

Addressing the SLS annual conference in St Andrews, Mr Burke, the head of Renfrew High School, will call for the government's fair funding group “to deliver what it says on the tin in terms of fairness of funding at school level”.

He will say: “We know there is stark variability in the key ingredients of staffing and funding across Scotland’s local authorities. In an empowered system the work of the fair funding review group will be vital, and must deliver what it says on the tin in terms of fairness of funding at school level.”

The Scottish government ran a consultation last year on how schools should be funded in the future.

In its response to the consultation, SLS general secretary Jim Thewliss said that there were 32 local ways of passing on funding to schools and that there was “neither equality nor equity at the point of delivery within Scotland or across local authority boundaries”.

In the consultation document, the government itself described the way funding was allocated to schools currently as “complex, opaque and varies widely between local authorities”.

However, the EIS teaching union and council umbrella body Cosla have said they would have serious concerns about accountability for public money if more cash was devolved to heads.

In its response to the fair funding consultation, the EIS warned the Scottish government it was “in danger of creating schools with the same characteristics as academies”, in terms of reducing local authority power and increasing headteachers’ powers, describing the prospect as “academies-light”.

Now, “a national framework for the delegation of funding to schools” is being designed by the fair funding group, as part of the joint agreement between councils and the Scottish government that emerged when education secretary John Swinney put his empowering schools legislation on hold.

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