Minister signals funding change

23rd December 2010 at 00:00
Education minister Leighton Andrews has given his clearest indication yet that school funding could be in line for significant reform.

Education minister Leighton Andrews has given his clearest indication yet that school funding could be in line for significant reform.

Mr Andrews has spoken out twice in recent weeks to say he is not opposed "in principle" to bypassing local authorities and funding schools directly.

The option is one of a number measures currently being considered by a special taskforce set up by the minister to look at the structure of education service delivery.

Mr Andrews is frustrated at the amount of education funding being retained by Wales's 22 local authorities and wants to move more cash to the front lines.

Speaking to an audience of headteachers from across Wales at teaching union ASCL Cymru's annual conference earlier this month, he said: "I'm not opposed in principle to the direct funding of schools. There are lots of caveats around that; issues about how you determine support for deprivation and sparsity. I will be looking with interest at what the taskforce produces."

Last week he repeated those comments in a debate on school funding in the Senedd, and added: "If you are to go down that route - and that might be one option that the task group . comes up with - you must ensure that you have effective mechanisms in place to allow challenge over performance, support for school improvement, and all those other essentials. That would be a part of the debate if we were to have a debate on those things."

Some educationalists suspect the minister's remarks are a warning to councils. One academic, who did not want to be named, told TES Cymru: "I think this gives us a pretty good indication of what the minister is considering. He has chosen his words carefully but the message is clear."

The Welsh Conservatives have made direct funding a core part of their education policy, saying it would give teachers, parents and governors more control over priorities, increase ministerial accountability and cut waste.

Gareth Jones, director of ASCL Cymru, said secondary school leaders would welcome the move, which would give them more "predictability" about the funding they receive, but warned any such change would see "winners and losers".

The task and finish group is due to report back to the minister in March.

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