Jury is still out over funding

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Responses to last week's school funding announcement (page 10) can best be described as wary. Will the guarantee of at least 4 per cent more for all schools ever materialise in their budgets? If so, will it prove adequate? Will schools' costs really only increase by the 3.4 per cent predicted, given the lack of agreement on the upper pay spine? And is that an average figure anyway that is bound to be exceeded in half of schools?

Will education authorities really get 5 per cent or more for schools when the full local government settlement is announced later this month? And even if they do, will the fabled "headroom" between that figure and the 4 per cent they must then pass on to all schools leave enough, as the Government expects, to bale out the unknown numbers of schools with big deficits?

Local authorities are not enthusiastic about Charles Clarke taking central control of the funding of 25,000 schools. But the havoc caused by this year's funding round has concentrated the minds of headteacher and local authority leaders as much as the Government on ensuring there is no repeat in 2004-5. So such criticism has been muted.

What the Education Secretary is attempting is essentially a pragmatic, short-term fix: an attempt to restore some stability and confidence in school funding in the run up to the next election - at the expense of fairer funding. Instead of priority to the disadvantaged, councils are to be forced to give the minimum increase to all, whether they need it or not.

Unfair anomalies are set in stone. And absolute priority is given to schools which may not have managed their budgets well.

Will it work? Only time will tell. If it doesn't, just as many heads will not shore up the Sats if the NUT decides on a boycott, so they will not feel inclined to balance budgets by sacking esteemed colleagues just because the Government got its sums wrong.

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