School spending nears pound;4bn

"Unprecedented" levels of school investment were hailed this week as evidence the Scottish Executive is beginning to tackle "the legacy of years of underinvestment".

The data, which relate to gross expenditure on school education by local authorities and not the previous school cost figures, put spending last year at almost pound;4 billion, an increase of 10 per cent. This includes pound;1.4 billion on primary education and pound;1.6 billion on secondaries.

Spending per primary pupil, at pound;3,537, was up 12 per cent on the previous year. A figure of pound;5,058 for each secondary pupil equates to a 9 per cent increase.

The figures are set to rise still further as the Executive ploughs cash into increasing teacher numbers and reducing class sizes. Expenditure arising from school rebuilding projects under public private partnerships (PPPs) will also fuel the figures as it impacts on council revenue budgets; since PPP projects are initially funded by the private sector, they do not feature in the current data.

The statistics do not allow easy comparisons between the generosity or otherwise of individual councils. They are made up not only of central government grant to councils but also a whole range of grants and charges (such as school meals) - and they include the costs of each authority's central administration allocated to support the education department.

None the less, there is a wide variation in expenditure. The average of Pounds 3,537 per primary pupil ranges from pound;3,023 in Angus to pound;6,513 in the Western Isles, which reveals little more than the high cost of a large number of small island schools.

Similarly, the national average secondary spend of pound;5,058 per pupil ranges from pound;4,507 in Dumfries and Galloway to pound;9,493 in Shetland, which has been attempting to drive down its costs by closing schools - unsuccessfully so far The tables also include special school expenditure of pound;390 million in total which, despite the policy of mainstreaming, stood at pound;53,749 per pupil last year - an increase of 15 per cent.

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