SECONDARY heads are demanding more direct funding and less financial interference from education directors after a study found that the budgets of similar sized schools can vary by as much as pound;340,000. That can translate into an extra 12 teachers.
Local authorities are accused of filching money from school budgets, imposing real cuts year after year and offsetting the advantages of the Scottish Executive's "much trumpeted direct funding". Unpredictability is a consistent complaint.
Secondary heads are now persuaded that Scotland should rapidly move towards the English system which has seen schools receive large amounts straight from Chancellor Gordon Brown. Every school south of the border will receive around pound;500,000 over three years, rising to pound;1 million for secondaries in deprived areas.
The wide differences in Scottish funding have prompted the Headteachers'
Association of Scotland to warn that unqualified comparisons between schools are now "unsound", ahead of the publication of national exam league tables which still determine the relative status of schools.
Their uncompromising message comes as directors meet today (Friday) for their annual conference.
Ministers are committed to doing more for heads but John Wells, the HAS's funding convener, last week told the Education Minister that the difference between the best and worst funded school can stretch to pound;385 per pupil.
Mr Wells, depute head at Balerno High in Edinburgh, said that figures from schools in 26 authorities had included staffing formulae scaled to a notional secondary of 1,000 pupils. That method allowed a fair comparison between similar-sized schools.
In 2001-02, this revealed differences in staffing from a low of 69:1 to a high of 81.87, although the range was generally from 69.2 to 75.
"There were further significant differences in the provision of additional teaching staff in the areas of music, behaviour support and learning support, with figures ranging from 0.8 in two authorities to 8.1 FTE (full-time equivalents) in another (the latter authority also having one of the higher figures for core staffing)," Mr Wells points out in his report.
Mr Wells adds: "There are, of course, ad hoc monies such as one-off payments, direct funding and other supplementaries which may either partly redress or exacerbate the situation, but again they lack clarity of provision, predictability of arrival or equity of application, and in many cases are top-sliced also before reaching the schools."
He continues: "In a national system of state education, it may be imagined, and even expected, that pupils are provided for in an equal way, but this is clearly not the case."
tales of woe
* "We're still carrying a 3 per cent staffing cut. Repairs and maintenance cut again - promise of PPP."
* "Management savings are permanent cuts, applied 'for ever' after the first year. We have had so many management savings that the only budget area where we can make cuts is now classroom supplies. Our delegated cover budget was removed last year. HQ now funds absence cover but in the process we lost pound;7,000 we had historically saved in this line. Fuel budgets were reduced, leading to a further hidden cut of pound;2,500. We have yet to see any additional funding for support staff."
* "The only exception to the universal application of a 5.56 per cut across all devolved budget lines has been the removal of all school-focused staff development money, which has been pound;0 for at least two years now."
* "Although there are no cuts, we have to vire pound;24,000 approximately each session to meet the cost of our ICT lease. We are not given any additional funding to meet this expenditure."
* "In three years, secondary schools in the authority have lost pound;1.2 million and this will get worse. A further pound;1.5 million is to be added to this for 2002-03. For my school, the share of the pound;1.5 million is in the region of pound;40,000 which will be added to our deficit this year, next year and every year until this decision is reversed. We had the lowest staffing ratio of all authorities last year - we have had a 3 per cent cut since then."