Million pupils 'are missing out'

19th February 1999 at 00:00
Councils claim there are huge funding divides, reports Clare Dean.

THE country's worst-funded councils claim that more than a million children are missing out because of the way Government finances education.

They estimate pupils in some parts of the country are up to pound;841 worse off than others.

The authorities - called the E8 Group - reckon they are losing out by around pound;68 million annually on their funding for primary and secondary pupils.

They want minimum levels of funding per pupil and have been pressing their case with Glenda Jackson, a minister in the Department for Transport, Environment and the Regions.

Dave Wilcox, chair of the group, said: "If we received our fair share - at least in line with the average for county councils - our schools could take on extra teachers and invest in new books and equipment."

The group - whose name is a play on the G8 group of the world's richest nations - includes Derbyshire, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire.

Mr Wilcox, who is also Derbyshire's education chair, said there was a strong case for minimum pupil-funding levels below which no council should fall.

"Given the similarity of teachers' salaries across the country - apart from those with London weighting and councils with high levels of social deprivation - we fail to see how the differences in pupil funding can be justified."

The E8 group wants minimum per-pupil funding for the shire counties of pound;2,252 for primary schools and pound;2,889 for secondaries; pound;2,353 and pound;3,022 for the metropolitan districts; and pound;2,326 and pound;2,984 for the shire unitaries.

Mr Wilcox estimated it would cost the Government an extra pound;240 million to bring the 40 worst funded councils in line with the average for county councils.

And he said: "We are not looking for favours. We are seeking fairness so we can all raise educational standards for all our children."

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