Funding forum in cry for sum help
A meeting to investigate school funding in Wales ended early this week after Assembly members admitted they needed help with their sums.
A five-member group is trying to work out how much money is actually being spent per pupil in Welsh classrooms. However, numerically-challenged committee members have asked for a statistician to decode the figures for them first.
Meanwhile, the Assembly government's draft education revenue budget for next year (2006-7), published this week, is expected to rise to pound;1,331 million (from pound;1,159m), with increases in spending outlined for universities, school governors and food in schools.
Jane Davidson, minister for education and lifelong learning, said: "The spending changes in today's draft budget reinforce our commitment to giving children the best start in life, giving young people more choices, supporting students and investing in higher education and lifelong learning."
Welsh universities will get pound;30m to compensate them for loss of tuition fees.
Top-up fees of up to pound;3,000 come into effect in England from next September, but will not apply in Wales until 2007. An Assembly government spokesperson said the money for universities had come from reserves, not other parts of the education budget.
Spending on school governors will almost double to pound;600,000 in 2006-7, rising to a possible pound;1.6m the following year. Around pound;200,000 of the increase will go towards paying for independent investigators to help governors dealing with allegations of child abuse against teachers.
There will also be more cash for a legal helpline and a revised and updated guide to the law for governors.
The cross-party Assembly committee started its work on clearing the fog surrounding current education spending in Wales this week. Member Janet Ryder, Plaid Cymru's shadow education spokesperson, said every part of the money chain -from the cash arriving from Westminster to that received by individual Welsh councils - needed to be broken down and scrutinised.
She said: "We need a county-by-county breakdown. We need to know how much of local education authority cash actually goes directly into schools and not on teachers' salaries, transport and such services."
Lynne Neagle, Labour AM for Torfaen, called for cash amounts to primary and secondary schools to be separated from funds for adult and youth education.
The committee was due to consider this year's (20056) education budgets set by local authorities, and a comparative analysis of council budgets for 20045. But members decided to delay discussion until they were fully briefed on the figures by a statistician.
The committee will hear from a comprehensive list of contributors, including unions, council representatives and parent-teacher association leaders, in a series of meetings scheduled until next June.
Headteachers, teachers and parents are also being encouraged to write in with their questions and views.
Brian Rowlands, secretary of the Secondary Heads Association Cymru, which has campaigned for an independent investigation into school funding in Wales, said the first meeting had been very positive. He said clarifying how much cash is actually getting into classrooms would end years of conflict over variations in LEA spending.
Figures for this year (2005-6) show Torfaen is expected to spend pound;2.2m (3.6 per cent) less on education than the Assembly has given it.
Cardiff will spend pound;9.7m (5.5 per cent) more than its Assembly allocation for education.
Tory education spokesperson William Graham was elected chair of the committee, which will meet again on Wednesday, November 2.