State is filling the poverty gap

YOUR story that the gap between rich and poor schools is widening (TES, May 12) fails to mention the considerable investment that this Government is making in disadvantaged areas.

Some pound;3 billion is allocated to local education authorities each year, on the basis of additional educational needs, through the Standard Spending Assessment. This clearly dwarfs the pound;230 million that the Directory of Social Change estimates as the total funding raised by all schools.

The financial information upon which the directory's report relies is from 1997 and doesn't take account of increases in spending since then. Spending per pupil in 1997 had fallen pound;60 over the previous three years - our spending has increased by pound;300 per pupil sine then. We have also delegated more resources to schools that might otherwise have been held centrally by LEAs.

We are investing pound;350m over three years in our Excellence in Cities programme, which is helping to change the culture of inner-city secondary schools. This was recently expanded to cover more areas and some primaries.

Our pound;450m Sure Start programme is improving services for young children and families in some disadvantaged areas. Don't forget that pound;140m is being allocated this year to LEAs where truancy and exclusion rates are high - nearly four times the amount available in 1997.

Estelle Morris

Education minister

Department for Education and Employment

Sanctuary Buildings, London

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