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Suspicion that figures alone do not always tell the full story is never truer than at Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh, one of the costliest secondaries in Scotland.

Official statistics show spending per pupil in 1995-96 was Pounds 7,523 but has now fallen to Pounds 3,955 in 1996-97. Why such a difference?

Alex Goodall, the headteacher, stressed two reasons and maintains the figure should be even lower. "The Scottish Office figures show current expenditure against the previous year's roll. But our roll has gone up. Three years ago it was 329. Now it is 488 and we expect it to climb even higher. We therefore expect the cost per pupil to be under Pounds 3,500 next year".

The second reason is the reallocation of centre costs. Edinburgh city council has attempted to separate school costs from adult education and leisure centre figures.

Mr Goodall explained: "All the costs of running a swimming pool seven days a week have been transferred to the community side, as has adult education. We're left with a smaller basis for comparison with other schools."

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