Funding increases favour urban areas

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
Some pupils now bring their schools pound;2,450 a year more than others, reports Jon Slater

A widening gap in school funding was revealed this week by official figures, showing a threefold difference in councils' budget increases since Labour came to power.

Increases in spending have been unevenly distributed across the country with schools in urban areas such as the North-east and Manchester receiving larger rises than those in suburban and shire areas, a TES analysis of figures released by David Miliband, school standards minister, shows.

Schools in the South-west have done particularly badly. Four of the six authorities receiving the smallest increases are in the region, which was already relatively poorly funded.

Outside Bristol, no authority in the South-west receives more than pound;3,310 per pupil - well below the national average of pound;3,600.

Evidence of the wide differences in funding increases casts new light on last year's funding crisis when some schools were forced to lay off staff while others received big budget increases.

Bournemouth received the least additional money, a real increase of 21 per cent or pound;560 per pupil since 1997. This compares to rises of 48 per cent, an extra pound;1,700 per pupil, for schools in Kensington and Chelsea, central London.

Heads in Bournemouth warned that eight teachers and 24 support staff will be made redundant this year because of funding problems.

A "substantial" number of additional posts will be lost through natural wastage. Pam Orchard, local Secondary Heads Association secretary, said schools are considering a range of measures to save money including sending pupils home for part of the week.

"I do not doubt that the Government has put in huge amounts of extra money its just that we have not seen any of it," she said.

Spending on schools in England has increased by pound;11 billion since 1997, a rise of more than pound;800 per pupil.

Headteachers' leaders said that schools in rural areas have had a raw deal under Labour.

David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said:

"It does not matter if you are a school in Northumberland or a school in Birmingham, you still have to deliver the same curriculum."

The figures, released in a parliamentary answer, include both funding provided through local authorities and central government grants.

They show big differences in the increases awarded to neighbouring authorities. Funding for schools in Stoke-on-Trent increased by 43 per cent, compared to a rise of 29 per cent in Staffordshire.

South Gloucestershire has taken over from Dudley in the West Midlands as the worst-funded education authority. In 2003-4 the latest year for which figures are available, public spending on education for three to 15-year-olds amounted to just pound;3,060 per pupil.

By contrast, spending in top-funded Tower Hamlets, London, was pound;5,510 per pupil.

Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, said the Government has targeted funding where it is most needed. "If I was a minister I would want to put extra money into all schools but more into areas that need it most. That is what the Government has done," he said.

A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said: "The reason inner-city LEAs tend to receive higher funding is that they are likely to have higher recruitment and retention costs, and higher numbers of pupils living in deprived circumstances than shire authorities."

Ministers are expected to reject calls for a national funding formula when the Government announces its long-term response to last year's crisis later this month.


Percentage increase(19978-20034) Funding per pupil

Six winners

Kensington and Chelsea up 48% to pound;5,280;

Gateshead up 44% to pound;3,560;

Salford up 43% to pound;3,680; Stoke-on-Trent up 43% to pound;3,590;

Middlesbrough up 43% to pound;3,820;

Manchester up 42% to pound;4,130.

Six losers

Bournemouth up 21% to pound;3,220;

Redbridge (London) up 22% to pound;3,620;

Poole up 22% to pound;3,110;

Torbay up 23% to pound;3,270;

Worcestershire up 23% to pound;3,120;

Dorset up 24% to pound;3,160.

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