HEADS today mounted a concerted attack on a funding sytem that they say is too complex and leads to glaring inequalities between schools in different areas.
The National Association of Head Teachers has published a survey that exposes the "lottery" of funding for schools and the bewildering array of special payments its members can claim - including those based on the height of school trees and the cost of emptying septic tanks.
With councils now considering more than 200 "factors" when allocating funds to schools, heads have said that enough is enough.
They want Education Secretary David Blunkett to fulfil a commitment he made just three months ago, to make local government funding more transparent.
David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "Our survey proves conclusively that millions of pupils are being short changed.
"The pretence that an education service ... can function via some 150 different funding outcomes is farcical."
A long-awaited Green Paper, with proposals to shake up council finance, is expected later this month. One option due to be unveiled is Mr Blunkett's pledge to the NAHT of separate budgets for authorities and schools, clarifying what money is intended for the latter. The NAHT survey - based on information provided by local authorities - shows that the percentage of an authority's schools budget actually getting to schools fluctuates wildly. For example, Westminster in London delegates only 76.2 per cent of its spending on schools compared to Southend on Sea's 88 per cent.
The proportion of the standard spending assessment - the amount ministers say should be spent on the service - reaching schools ranges from 73.5 per cent in Rochdale to 92.8 per cent in Rutland.
The survey reveals that cash is paid out to Reading schools based on the height of trees in their grounds. It also points out that Hertfordshire's explanation of its payments to staff for London weighting runs to 54 lines.
The survey says primary pupils now get on average pound;650 each per year less than secondary pupils.
The differences betwen primaries are also wide: Nottinghamshire, for example, spends an average pound;1,582 per pupil compared with the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea's pound;2,872.
In primaries in Westminster, pound;2,515 has been allocated per pupil compared with pound;1,753 in Bexley a few miles down the road.
In the secondary sector, differences are even greater. Northumberland spends an average pound;1,862 per pupil while Kensington and Chelsea spends pound;3,626.
The greatest difference between neighbouring boroughs is between Windsor and Maidenhead (pound;2,107) and Slough (pound;2,829).
Particularly worrying, says the NAHT, was the percentage of Government Standards Fund money available to schools at the beginning of April, the new financial year. This is the chief source of cash for training, staff development and government initiatives.
It claims some councils, such as Salford, Coventry, Wakefield and Blackpool had passed on none of the Standards Fund money to schools. But others such as Ealing, Rochdale, Sunderland, Redcar and Cleveland, Peterborough and Southampton had delegated more than 70 per cent.
Full funding tables at
LUCK OF THE DRAW? Average funding per
primary pupil per year
Kensington and Chelsea pound;2,872
Tower Hamlets pound;2,698
Average funding per
Kensington and Chelsea pound;3,626
Tower Hamlets pound;3,460
Percentage of local schools budget that actually gets to schools
Southend on Sea 88 per cent
Northamptonshire 85.6 per cent
Lincolnshire 85.6 per cent
Havering 85.6 per cent
Sefton 85.5 per cent
Westminster 76.2 per cent
Cornwall 76.7 per cent
Devon 77.7 per cent
Buckinghamshire 78 per cent
Dorset 78 per cent