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Heads welcome funding changes

YOUR concerns over the delegation of funds to schools are misplaced (TES, November 24). Heads have welcomed the passing of an extra pound;1 billion direct to schools as well as the introduction of direct grants for revenue and capital. The Audit Commission accepts that the vast majority of schools are using their increased autonomy wisely.

Of course, there are limits to how much should be delegated from local education authorities to schools. There are key functions like school transport which authorities are best placed to deliver and we accept the view of heads that this is best co-ordinated at authority level.

But levels of delegation differ widely between authorities, from 80 per cent to nearly 90 per cent. We want to bring all authorities up to the standards of the best.

Schools have welcomed the increased responsibilities - very few would want to turn the clock back.

We have always recognised that secondary schools are often better placed than primaries to take on extra responsibilities. Thats why primaries can choose whether to have delegation of certain items like school meals.

We are providing smaller schools with extra administrative support through this year's pound;80 million Small Schools Fund which can, for example, enable them to employ a bursar jointly between schools.

We believe the Audit Commission has not given sufficient recognition to the essential role the Standards Fund plays in raising achievement in schools - without its ring-fenced support we could not have reduced infant class sizes or brought about the dramatic improvements in literacy and numeracy at key stage 2.

The Government has already recognised the need both for greater flexibility at school level and a dramatic reduction in the bidding and the paperwork associated with the fund. This is all happening with the 2001-2 Standards Fund.

Estelle Morris MP

Minister of State for Education

Department for Education and Employment

Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street

London SW1P

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