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Cash to heal cuts

Funding per pupil finally rose last year after years of decline - though only back to the level schools got under the previous government, writes John Howson.

THE amount of money schools get for each pupil has risen for the first time since the early nineties.

The figures, published by the Department for Education and Emloyment cover the period up to 1998-99, the first full financial year of Tony Blair's government.

The good news is that unit costs per pupil in primary schools rose by pound;90 per pupil between 1997-98 and 1998-99, reversing three years of decline. The latest figure is the best since 1994-95.

In the secondary sector the rise was smaller than in the primary sector at just pound;20 per pupil. However, it did bring to a halt five years of decline that saw costs per pupil fall by some 8 per cent during the mid 1990s. The latest rise was enough to take secondary school unit costs back to where they were under the last years of the Conservativegovernment, but no better than that.

But secondaries fared better than special schools which, despite a small rise in 19989, still received less funding per pupil in 1998-99 than in the last year of the previous government.

These rises reflect the government's policy of improving early years schooling and cutting class sizes at key stage 1.

Over the next few years there should be further good news on the unit-costs front as more funds are pumped into schools.

Indeed, the government's estimates for the 1999-2000 financial year were that revenue funding per pupil was 5.5 per cent up on the figure for the final year of the past government.

Sadly, those pupils going on to higher education will discover that unit costs in higher education have fallen by 3.6 per cent under this government and by 30 per cent over the past


John Howson is managing director of Education Data Surveys. His e-mail is

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