Choppy waters of funding stream;Hot data;Briefing;Management

16th April 1999 at 01:00

Many education authorities will see their Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) per pupil rise somewhere between 5 and 5.5 per cent for this financial year. The assessment is what central government calculates an authority should spend on its education service.

Some 85 per cent of the total figure is allocated on the basis of pupil numbers, with the remainder dependent on other factors. Some authorities have done better than others this year because their pupil numbers have risen faster than the national average. However, they may do less well on the part of the SSA that is related to the 15 per cent not linked to pupil numbers.

Even allowing for these differences, the increase in the percentage SSA per pupil varies from a rise of only 3.5 per cent in Redbridge in north-east London to one of 5.5 per cent in two unitary authorities, Blackburn and Halton, both in the North-west. The only increases larger than this are in the two smallest education authorities of the City of London and the Isles of Scilly.

Generally, among all types of local authorities, there are winners and losers. Most of the Home Counties authorities, along with some of the more affluent outer London boroughs, have rises towards the lower end of the scale. On the other hand, most inner London boroughs and the majority of the metropolitan districts are towards the upper end.

SSA rises have a direct impact on school budgets, but they are no longer the only source of finance. The Government has developed 31 programmes under the Standards Fund, plus initiatives, such as the KS1 class-size reduction scheme, for which authorities either had to bid for money, or have been allocated formula-determined grants.

Thus the SSA no longer gives the whole picture. Education action zones are further complications, as is the Specialist Schools Programme.

Additional funding for schools also comes from parents and business schemes such as Tesco's Computers for Schools. The end result is that comparisons of funding levels between schools have become difficult enough within an authority, and virtually impossible between schools in different authorities.

Many of these additional funding streams are one-offs. Schools increasingly have to worry that much of this income is not guaranteed from one year to the next.

John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company. Email:

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