No sign of extra money say schools

4th June 1999 at 01:00
The teachers' pay rise and rising pupil numbers have eaten up the Chancellor's cash. Karen Thornton reports

THE Government's extra cash for schools is still not getting through to some - even in areas where overall spending on education has risen.

The Education Secretary has already written to 18 councils telling them to make sure all the money allocated to them by Labour is spent on schooling.

But council figures show that the problem is much wider, with schools seeing no improvement in their budgets even in authorities which are spending up to government limits.

In some cases, the teachers' pay rise and increasing pupil numbers have wiped out any gains. In other cases, local factors - such as overspending on special needs, or the workings of delegated funding formulas - have affected how money is shared out.

Surrey schools, for example, were told by education director Paul Gray that the service had received its best settlement for years.

But after taking into account the teachers' pay rise, increasing pupil numbers and overspends on special needs, the council was nearly pound;6 million overspent on its improved allocation.

"There will inevitably be implications for a number of schools' budgets," Mr Gray told governors and headteachers.

In Leicestershire, the "most generous financial settlement in recent years" was not enough to cope with all the spending pressures, such as higher pupil numbers.

Age-weighted pupil funding reduced in real terms, although there was more money for SEN and from the standards fund.

In Oxfordshire, the council says schools saw a real increase in funding of just under pound;3 million, and councillors have committed themselves to spending the full allocation on education by next year.

But deputy chief education officer Roy Smith has said "the growth agreed for mainstream schools is merely replacing in part the cuts made over recent years".

Judith Bennett, secretary of the county's governors association, said: "In theory, it's a standstill budget. In effect, people are still making cuts or they are not able to address the things that are necessary."

In Cornwall, historically lower funding levels have combined with local factors - such as burgeoning SEN costs and changes in pupil numbers. John Shears, chairman of the county's secondary headteachers' association, said:

"We are struggling to understand why, when it seems the Government is announcing this money, we don't get it."

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