Budget manna still being totalled up

11th May 2001 at 01:00
HEADS will know in early June at the latest how much of the Chancellor's Budget windfall for schools will actually come their way, the Education Minister revealed.

Officials were still checking that last November's pound;17 million got through to schools before announcing details of the next financial boost. "I believe it did across Scotland," Jack McConnell said.

It has been assumed a chunk of a substantial larger sum will be siphoned off to fund the post-McCrone agreement but Mr McConnell offered no clues. Discussions, he said, would have to take place between the Executive and the authorities and between the schools and authorities.

Tom Higgins, head of St Cuthbert's High, Johnstone, said heads would welcome any announcement about the size of the sums available and the strings attached.

Mr McConnell replied that he had been struck by the lack of reedom some heads had over budgets. They had delegated cash but administrative rules prevented them from spending it where they wanted.

But he had not heard of any local authorities trimming core budgets in anticipation of the Chancellor's extra cash. "This is additional money and should not be used to reduce school budgets. I do not have any powers over that," he admitted.

The Executive had asked authorities and schools to be open and transparent in their use of the last windfall. Local accountability was the principal check on its distribution.

Tony Gavin, head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston, questioned whether Mr McConnell's vision for education could be delivered by present structures. "In the 23 years as a headteacher, my pupil-teacher ratios have never been higher and core funding is as low as it has ever been," Mr Gavin said.

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