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Funding crisis not over yet

The crisis over school funding will continue next year because ministers have failed to uncover the full-scale of the problems during 2003, MPs said yesterday.

Schools still have "grounds for concern" for 20045 despite the Government's guarantee that all schools will receive a funding increase of at least 4 per cent per pupil for schools with static rolls, according to a report by the education select committee.

It accuses ministers of promising more than they could deliver and described their failure to estimate the effect funding changes would have on schools as a "serious weakness".

The committee called on ministers to conduct an immediate survey of education authorities to examine the true extent of the funding problems.

This should look beyond the effect of the crisis on teacher numbers to find out how many schools set deficit budgets and how many were forced to use capital funding to avoid cuts.

"The danger for the Department for Education and Skills now is that it is attempting to remedy the problems without a full knowledge of where those problems occurred and the reasons for them," the report said.

It highlighted four reasons why problems may persist in 20045:

* next year's 5.7 per cent planned increase in funding is less than that for 20034; * inflation is higher this year;

* fixed costs may increase faster than the 4 per cent predicted;

* schools which raided reserves or capital funding this year may not be able to do so again.

MPs expressed "serious reservations" about ministers taking greater control of school funding.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said:

"This report shows the need for ministers to provide extra funds to avoid another crisis next year. My hunch is that this is not the end of the story."

Schools minister David Miliband said: "The Government welcomes the select committee's report. We will consider the recommendations carefully and make a full response in due course."

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