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pound;3.5bn to make funding fair

THE Government needs to find pound;3.5 billion this summer to end the "indefensible" system of funding whereby some schools receive thousands of pounds more per pupil than others, writes Warwick Mansell.

The warning comes as ministers prepare to announce the results of years of deliberation on reform of the system for calculating councils' education budgets.

Peter Downes, a past president of the Secondary Heads Association and a member of the Government working party on education funding, said the cash was needed to ensure that no schools lost out in the review.

A primary in Tower Hamlets, east London, gets pound;4,100 per pupil compared to pound;2,700 in Lincolnshire. A secondary in Lambeth, south London, gets pound;5,600 per pupil, as opposed to pound;3,000 in Rutland.

Radical changes to the system will be introduced next April. Mr Downes said the Government needed to commit pound;2bn in 2003-4, and a further pound;0.75 bn in each of the following years, to ensure there were no losers.

Alan Parker, president of the Society of Education Officers, who also sits on the group, said: "Not to fund these changes properly would create substantial losers, which would be political suicide."

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