Panel slams Assembly's 'cloudy' funding system

16th October 2009 at 01:00
Third inquiry in three years calls for radical `culture change' in education finances

Original paper headline: Cross-party panel slams Assembly's `cloudy' funding system

A cross-party panel of Assembly members has attacked school funding mechanisms in Wales after carrying out a third inquiry into the system in recent years.

In a statement, the Enterprise and Learning Committee called for a "culture change" in the way education is financed, and said there is still a need for greater clarity, transparency and accountability.

Gareth Jones, committee chairman, said that although the funding fog identified by earlier inquiries is now clearing, it is still "clouding the process". "Parents in Wales should be able to see clearly how much money is being spent on their children's education, and how that money is allocated to local authorities and, in turn, to individual schools," he said.

The committee also attacked the "persistent problem" of historical funding, where the same amounts of money are being ploughed into the same methods of producing the same results "rather than finding any innovative or objective assessment of meeting schools' current and future needs".

The tone of the report gave a clear indication that the committee feels the Assembly government has failed to get to grips with school funding, despite receiving a total of 37 recommendations from the two previous inquiries in 2006 and 2008.

The 2006 inquiry led the Assembly government to commission the Bramley Review, undertaken by academics at Heriot-Watt University, which concluded that school resources, especially at secondary level, were the key to success.

But the report proved so explosive it was shelved, and in its evidence to the committee earlier this year the government confirmed it would not be implementing any of Bramley's radical funding scenarios.

Last year's inquiry concluded that although some progress had been made on funding, it was still lacking in certain areas.

Now Jane Hutt, education minister, has a further 10 recommendations to consider after the committee identified a number of recurring problems and several new issues that have emerged.

It said there should be an independent review of school's revenue needs, which could form the basis for a new agreement between the government and local authorities on a recommended minimum funding requirement.

The government should also work with local authorities to make sure that the funds set aside for building work and repairs can be identified and are fully used.

It also wants any new system for distributing cash to schools to be subject to "robust scrutiny", with timetables published.

Mr Jones said: "School funding should be only a means to an end - which is the delivery of positive outcomes for schools and pupils. The driving force should be educational attainment and improvement."

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