Cash 'hijack' riles heads

10th August 2001 at 01:00
Headteachers say there is no guarantee all schools will benefit from Jack McConnell's extra pound;10 million for books, equipment and minor repairs - despite the Education Minister's promise that everyone will be better off.

Many schools have seen little of previous tranches of Scottish Executive cash stemming from major spending announcements by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, according to primary and secondary heads. South of the border, substantial additional cash has gone straight to schools but in Scotland local authorities continue to control the purse strings.

This week's spending announcement comes on top of last December's pound;17.2 million, which itself followed a post-Budget boost of pound;32 million, bringing the total to pound;59.2 million in just over a year. Ministers insist it is up to the Scottish Executive to decide how it spends the cash and not Mr Brown.

It is suspected additional cash is being siphoned off to fund the post-McCrone pay deal.

Mr McConnell's latest sum is set to be distributed to schools via local authorities based on roll size and will mean the average primary receiving just under pound;2,000 against pound;10,000 for the average secondary.

But Bill Milligan, president of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, says many primaries received nowhere near the amounts that were due from last year's cash injection, making it impossible to carry out repairs and buy additional materials. "The way councils distributed it last year was clearly suspect," Mr Milligan said.

He added: "Per capita in my school has not risen for the last five years and cuts have had a serious impact. I started off the financial year with a negative budget and once I paid for the photocopier, I'd nothing for anything else. The Chancellor's money saved a lot of schools and it will do that this year. No one is going to turn it down but it is still lamentably low. In a sense, we are no further forward."

The association remains deeply unhappy at the funding discrepancy between primaries and secondaries, pointing out that many primaries are in buildings of similar size.

Mr Milligan also suggests many direct labour organisations, run by the authorities, were unable to cope with extra building and repairs work. Repairs at his own school in Ayr are being carried out eight months after the spending announcement.

George Ross, secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said:

"There were some concerns that all of the money was not getting through and we would like to see it going straight to the schools. This is an issue we have raised with Jack McConnell."

Brian Monteith, Conservative education spokesman, described the minister's plans as a "con".

"Last year in Edinburgh," Mr Monteith said, "more than a third of the city's allocation was spent on one primary to get the council out of a funding hole after asbestos was found in the school. Meanwhile other schools received as little as pound;74 despite assurances from ministers that every school would receive an allocation to meet their own needs."

John Mulgrew, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said that while there was a clear strategy to devolve money to schools it was important for authorities to reserve the right to offer guidance to headteachers on how to spend the money.

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