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Cut-price students wait for payment

STUDENTS at the University of Sussex are providing a cut-price alternative to costly management consultants.

Officers at Brighton and Hove Council's education department bypassed the usual alternatives of Deloitte and Touche or Andersen Consulting when they decided to take a fresh look at the school funding system. Instead they plumped for six economics undergraduates from the nearby university.

At pound;300 per consultant, the students were certainly competitively priced and Andy Moore, senior finance officer with Brighton and Hove, said he was impressed by the standard of their work.

The anomalies uncovered by their study included a stepped resourcing system that meant that schools faced sharp funding falls with the loss of individual pupils; and inequalities between pre and post-16 schooling that meant a secondary with 800 pupils up to GCSE level and 200 in a sixth form got less cash per pupil than a 900-pupil secondary school with no sixth form.

Their recommendations will be considered by council officers later this month.

One of member of the student team, Francesca Barker, said she thought they had provided new insights in a politically-charged area: "At their meetings they just argued a lot. Everyone was looking out for their own interests.

"The primary school head would be arguing from their point of view, the infant school would be defending their position, but we have come into this with fresh minds."

Two months after presenting their reports, the students are now brushing up another essential consulting skill - securing payment. Ms Barker believed council bureaucracy was holding up their fees, while spokesman for Brighton and Hove said a student sit-in at the university administration offices had caused the delay.

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