Councils must prove they consult

5th February 1999 at 00:00
LOCAL authorities will have to prove to the Government that they are consulting schools over new funding arrangements.

David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, has told authorities to hand over all copies of consultation papers that they have issued to headteachers and governing bodies in the past four months.

The new ruling, revealed in a letter to councils last week from the Government, comes as local authorities have been told to delegate an extra pound;1 billion to schools. They will also have to provide evidence of further consultation on the new Fair Funding system, to be introduced in April, in an attempt to sweep away the financial differences between grant-maintained and local authority schools.

The move was criticised by Christine Whatford, president of the Society of Education Officers, and education director of Hammersmith and Fulham, London.

She told the SEO's conference in Harrogate last weekend: "Even the previous Government trusted us to consult properly when we were told to.

"A border-line student of GNVQ business studies could understand the demotivating effect of treating people like this."

Mr Blunkett wants to see evidence of consultation on delegation, evidence of how money is allocated and of other funding schemes.

The new system of funding, called Fair Funding, represents the most radical shake-up of school funding since local management was introduced a decade ago. The Government is also planning to publish league tables of local authority spending and to end unnecessary bureaucracy.

The money delegated to schools - about half in April - is intended to cover building repairs and maintenance, staff costs, advisory and inspection services, and special educational needs.

Ms Whatford pointed out that LEAs are already cooperating with the Government over a range of initiatives.

"We have not baulked at working on 17 plans at the same time, and have met the deadlines for all of them," she said.

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