Starved of cash for books

Pupils in Welsh schools often rely on charity for books, a committee set up to investigate school funding has heard. Evidence given by governors reveals a lack of cash for basic learning tools, with parent-teacher associations holding fundraising events to ensure pupils do not have to share books.

Parents, however, often see governors as magicians who can buy everything and anything, according to Governors Wales, which represents the country's 26,000 volunteer school board members. Anne Robertson, development officer for Governors' Wales, said there was a lack of understanding at school level over how money was allocated.

At a meeting last week of the Welsh Assembly's school funding committee, Ms Robertson said: "In England, every pupil has two sets of books guaranteed through money passported directly to schools.

"In Wales, not enough is getting through to schools for every pupil to have a book, and they rely on fundraising."

Assembly members are investigating the so-called "funding fog" surrounding school budgets in Wales, and are due to report in the summer.

Councillor Glyn Owen MBE, chairman of Governors Wales, said its advice to the funding review committee came with a "health warning".

He said members were divided over the best way to fund schools, but all agreed not enough was getting through at the grassroots. Governors in traditionally low-spending authorities want ring-fenced cash from the Assembly government, but those in LEAs where education spending is above average believed the traditional funding route, via councils, should be maintained.

Secretary Allan Tait, a governor in Torfaen, said he believed in a basic level of funding for all LEAs.

He said a shortfall of pound;2 million below the Welsh Assembly set indicator base assessment meant schools in his area had a bad deal.

The extra money had gone to social services - a local service that often drains funds from education budgets. Governors Wales representatives also told AMs that tallying the financial year with the school year could help - as would three-year budgets, already in place in England.

Heads belonging to the Welsh Secondary Schools Association said the replacement of management allowances with new teaching and learning responsibility points, combined with workload reforms, were putting an intolerable strain on their resources.

Sixth forms were also suffering because bigger classes had not resulted in more funding, according to representatives.

Neil Foden, head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, said there was simply not enough money coming in for new Assembly initiatives.

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