Head knocks 'crude' system

13th December 2002 at 00:00
Steven Edgar, headteacher of Amersham school in Buckinghamshire, is one of the losers under the new funding formula.

His local authority has received the minimum, 3.2 per cent, funding increase. But he believes the needs of his school, with acute staffing shortages, have been overlooked because the Government has based its calculations on "crude indicators" of the area's general prosperity.

"The Government assumes that the areas of need are those in urban locations. But it is not simply a question of metropolitan area versus rural shire, or north against south," he said.

"It has not taken account of the fact that relatively affluent counties such as ours also have underprivileged pockets where children are in danger of becoming a forgotten underclass. People may think of this as a nice, leafy area, but we still have patches that are socially deprived. And because Buckinghamshire, like Kent, is a selective LEA, it means children from disadvantaged backgrounds are concentrated in a small number of schools."

Staff at schools in the south of the borough, including Amersham, benefit from London fringe weighting, but those in other parts of the county do not qualify for any extra allowance, even though house prices are comparable to parts of London.

Mr Edgar said: "Schools are relying on a growing number of expensive agency staff, and we are spending money on trying to recruit from foreign countries. We are also losing secretaries and other support staff to the commercial sector, which is able to offer wages that reflect the cost of living in Buckinghamshire."

Secondary modern schools already have a funding gripe. Twelve of Buckinghamshire's 21 upper schools are in deficit with the group collectively pound;1.1 million in the red. The 13 grammars are much better off: together they have nearly pound;2 million in the bank.

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