Similar schools, poles apart because of cash skew

No one doubts the commitment of the teachers at George Pindar sports college in Scarborough.

Every Friday night, the head and his team patrol the town with police, talking to pupils, breaking up intimidating groups on street corners, confiscating alcohol and - for one assistant head - gettiing vomited on for her troubles.

The trouble is, because Scarborough is a pocket of deprivation in the relatively affluent local authority of North Yorkshire, the college gets Pounds 3,016 per pupil - nearly pound;1,000 less than similar schools in cities.

That is pound;800,000 that the 866-pupil school cannot spend on its pupils.

Hugh Bellamy (above, left), its headteacher, said: "We are compared in all the league tables with schools that have similar levels of deprivation, yet they can afford small classes and learning mentors."

Research by the Association of School and College Leaders, to be presented to its annual conference today, shows growing discrepancies between schools in similar communities.

Malcolm Trobe, association president, said: "Pupils in some areas of the country, often the most vulnerable ones who need the extra support, are losing out."

More than 22 per cent of pupils at George Pindar are entitled to free school meals, almost as many as at Perry Beeches in central Birmingham, where it is 27 per cent. But Ingrid Gallagher (right), head of Perry Beeches, said it had done relatively well, with pound;3,909 funding per pupil.

Her staff are no less committed. But they can afford individual support for pupils and families, enabling about 15 pupils each year who might otherwise have been excluded to "survive" school. "Anywhere else, they would have been out on the streets without an education," Mrs Gallagher said.

But there is hope for her counterpart in Scarborough. The Department for Education and Skills this week proposed using databases that break down income, spending, housing and crime data to individual postcodes. If it works, extra deprivation funding could finally be earmarked for schools such as George Pindar.

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