The biggest fact-finding exercise on school budgets is currently under way. Every chair of governors has been sent a copy of the Survey of School Budgets with a request to heads and chairs to complete and return it as soon as possible, writes Simon Goodenough.
The survey is being conducted by the Institute of Public Finance on behalf of the National Governors' Council.
The Secretary of State has said that she will welcome evidence from the survey. The Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Head Teachers both fully support it; so do the teacher unions, the Association of County Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities - chief education officers and chairs of education committees have been asked to encourage schools to put the survey at the top of their action list.
Never before has an attempt been made on such a scale to analyse the effect on schools of their budgets; even the Department for Education has not achieved such a comprehensive analysis.
Nor has there been such a degree of co-operation between all the major education bodies in an independent survey of this kind.
It should show precisely how schools have coped with this year's budgets; it will enable comparisons with last year on such things as numbers of teaching and non-teaching staff, and on equipment and books.
If there have been cuts, it will show how and where they have been made and the impact they have had on aspects of school life, such as class sizes and teacher contact hours.
This is a unique opportunity for every school to have an input into the national scene. Every school is encouraged to reply, whatever its budgetary situation, so that a balanced picture is obtained. That picture will be presented to the Secretary of State in July for the scheduled discussions on the next public spending round. It is vital that the most up-to-date and accurate information possible is fed into those discussions, to influence government spending on education next year.
The date for the return of forms has been extended to the end of June so schools still have time to contribute.
The full results will be launched in the second week in July and a summary will be available free to all associations of governing bodies and to groups of governors and parents. Figures for each local authority area will also be published.
In the continuing and urgent debate on the funding of education, this survey has a vital part to play. I strongly urge schools to return it as soon as possible. The form does require some detailed information but hard-pressed heads and governors should not be put off. It may be the most important form filled in this year.
For further information, contact Tim Ramsdale at CIPFA on 0181-667 1144, or the National Governors' Council on 01363-774377.
Simon Goodenough is chairman of the National Governors' Council