Just a financial smokescreen

I was extremely dismayed that your article "Tories get their apples and pears mixed up" (January 10) completely failed to explain where our figures came from, leaving your readers in the dark and stunting real debate on the funding of our schools.

Our research aimed firstly to establish how much money is spent on state school education in Scotland. Information, almost exclusively from the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in Scotland, indicated that total schools education expenditure in Scotland was in the region of pound;3.3 billion for 2002-03 (roughly pound;4,500 per pupil - similar to figures recently quoted for English schools).

It should be noted that all authorities are asked to confirm the accuracy of the CIPFA figures prior to their publication. If the figures are "suspect", then it is the local authorities who are in error.

Next, we analysed the Scottish Executive's Budgeted School Running Costs 2002-03 document and found that school budgets across primary, secondary and special school sectors total roughly pound;2.2bn (just under pound;3,000 per pupil). Hence, the pound;1.1bn gap in funding that we have highlighted.

The Scottish Executive's BSRC figures include costs for staff, premises, supplies, transport, examination entry fees, school board related costs and other school running costs (including catering) and are supposed to give a good indication of what it costs to run each one of our schools. If somehow these figures do not reflect what it actually costs to deliver education in our schools, the problem lies not with the Scottish Conservatives but with a deceitful Scottish Executive.

While the boasts of local authorities on devolved school management sound impressive, the reality is that headteachers have real discretion over only a tiny fraction of their budgets. If this were not the case, the Headteachers' Association of Scotland would not have felt it necessary to call for more direct funding ("Heads want the cash", TESS, November 22).

The Scottish Conservatives firmly believe that headteachers are best placed to make the important decisions about the delivery of education in their schools and think it is time to have a real debate over the way we finance our education system. Fatuous claims by Convention of Scottish Local Authorities' spokesmen about apples and pears are nothing more than a smokescreen to confuse the reader.

Brian Monteith MSP

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