THE best view yet of how school budgets will change over the next three years is provided by next week's joint Governmentunion paper on workload reduction.
It makes clear that schools will be expected to use increases in their core funding to pay for reductions in teacher workload and the Government's plan to remodel the profession by making greater use of support staff.
The 22-page document, the subject of much discussion at this week's North of England education conference, reveals in greater detail than ministers have previously provided the funds available to governing bodies in the face of a range of financial pressures to the year 20056.
Overall non-capital funding, including both the Standards Fund and that channelled through local authorities, will increase by pound;6 billion. But as the paper makes clear, schools will face a range of financial pressures over that time.
Although pupil numbers are falling, inflation will eat up pound;1.8bn of the pound;6bn increase, employers' pension contributions will cost pound;690m, and the phasing out of three specific grants, including money to cut infant class sizes and to cover threshold payments to teachers, will cost schools pound;670m. After all extra costs have been taken into account, though, the paper still calculates that budgets will rise by pound;3.012bn in real terms from 2002-6, or 12 per cent.
Ministers will argue this gives schools plenty of cash to cut the workload of their teachers and invest in more support staff, as well as funding other action to raise standards.
But the pound;110m a year by 20045 of direct funding earmarked specifically for workload reduction would, at current pay rates, fund just three teaching assistants for secondaries and would not pay for a single full-time primary post.
With employers and support staff unions negotiating a career structure for assistants, schools could find they get even fewer staff for the money. Schools will therefore be forced to use increases in core funds to pay for the agreement to cut teachers' workload.
In total, the average secondary will receive pound;350,000 extra in 20056, with the average primary getting pound;70,000. That would allow secondaries to employ 36 more teaching assistants and primaries to employ an additional seven.
Unions, however, are waiting until they see the cash actually feeding through to schools before pronouncing judgment.