Nothing adds up when it come to Balls and tough questions

17th April 2009 at 01:00

The ineptitude and incompetence of the Learning and Skills Council is far from the full story of the ongoing schools and colleges funding debacle ("More 16-18s face training crisis", April 10).

The real situation is much worse and the blame lies with Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Treasury. Not only have they presided over an arbitrary cut in post-16 funding of 4 per cent - in my school's case amounting to Pounds 140,000 - but also of further unfunded "stealth costs" of the same amount that have been ignored and hidden.

Last year, evidence showed that the LSC did in fact know of the significant increase in post-16 applicants for September 2009. In addition, the DCSF announced that it had identified that schools could make "efficiency savings" of at least 1 per cent. As a consequence, this would be removed from the previously "three year guaranteed" per-pupil funding for 200910 in advance (Pounds 60,000 plus at my school).

Questions on how such efficiencies had been identified and were to be achieved, when energy costs had trebled, were received with a deafening silence. Further "1 per cent savings" for 201011 and 201112 are also in the pipeline. In addition, from April 2008, schools and local authorities were instructed to introduce statutory re-grading of all support staff at a cost of another 1 per cent of budget.

As a consequence, and having through prudent financial management achieved a small surplus to carry forward, we are faced with a shortfall of Pounds 300,000 yet expected to introduce the initiatives and schemes that continue from the DCSF, and at the same time continue to expand our sixth form.

Given the financial situation we are now in, perhaps Mr Balls could inform me of how he expects schools to deliver his reforms. All I hear are worthless "guarantees" and silences punctuated by excuses.

Forget your grand plans, Mr Balls. Your education policies are defunct. After the shambles of key stage 3 Sats and the black hole of FE capital funding, you can forget your 14-19 strategy. Forget diplomas. Forget your compulsory education for all 18-year-olds by 2012. Forget 50 per cent entry to university by 2014. The name of the game is to retain the status quo and survive - particularly to find a way we can educate pupils in our sixth form for whom there is no funding.

Perhaps the most cynical aspect of this shambles is that Mr Balls and the Government have calculated that schools will do anything to ensure their pupils are not affected. In this calculation they are probably correct.

Paul Strong, Headteacher, William Farr School, Welton, Lincoln.

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