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Minister defends funding

The Assembly government has dismissed claims that secondary schools in Wales are losing up to pound;300 per pupil compared to those in England.

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, insisted Welsh schools were not losing out, despite research showing that the Assembly government spends 1 per cent less on education than its counterpart in England.

Speaking at the Secondary Heads Association Cymru's annual conference in Llandrindod Wells this week, Ms Davidson defended her spending record.

She said: "This is a complex issue. But evidence tells me that schools in Wales are keeping pace with England."

Last week, TES Cymru reported that even well-funded schools in Wales were receiving between pound;2-300 less per pupil than comparable schools in England. An inquiry, conducted by SHA, showed that the cross-border difference could add up to pound;120,000 a year for a 600-pupil school.

And David Reynolds, professor of education at Exeter university, told the SHA conference that Wales was spending 12 per cent less on education than it should be. He said the Assembly government receives 11 per cent more funding per head of population than England, but is spending 1 per cent less on education.

He said. "Money we might expect doesn't come to us. The area of expenditure increasing most rapidly is culture, media and sport."

Brian Lightman, head of St Cyres school, in the Vale of Glamorgan, said the debate was going around in circles. "In England there are a number of grants for specific purposes, like specialist schools," he said. "These are substantial sums of money which schools can apply for.

"We are not asking for those initiatives. But we do need funds to develop our schools."

The SHA Cymru conference also discussed assessment reforms with Richard Daugherty, head of the commission which recommended abolishing key stage 2 and 3 tests earlier this year. And there were debates on proposed reforms to the 14-19 curriculum and to post-16 funding.

Ms Davidson said her current education priorities were curriculum reform at the foundation and 14-19 stages, and smoothing the transition between primary and secondary school.

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