Primaries win dash for cash

9th December 2005 at 00:00
All will get at least 4 per cent more per pupil next year in a move interpreted by heads as acknowledgement that the workforce deal will hit them hardest. Jon Slater reports

Primary schools will get bigger funding increases than their secondary neighbours next year after the Government announced an overall 6.8 per cent increase in funding per pupil.

The two-year funding settlement announced this week will guarantee all primaries a minimum increase of 4 per cent per pupil next year, with secondaries getting at least 3.4 per cent.

An average primary school will receive a minimum increase of about Pounds 22,000 and a typical secondary will get pound;120,000. It is the second year that primaries have been guaranteed bigger increases than secondaries.

Heads said the higher increase for primaries was a recognition that they face higher costs implementing workforce reform as well as an attempt to close the historical funding gap between the two sectors.

Official figures show secondary schools spend about pound;800 more per pupil each year than primary schools. All schools will be guaranteed a minimum increase of 3.7 per cent per pupil in 2007-08 as part of a slightly lower overall funding increase of 6.7 per cent per pupil.

London schools are the other big winners, with average increases of more than 7 per cent in each of the two years. This compares to schools in the East Midlands which will get an average of 6.6 per cent in 2006-07 and 6.5 per cent the following year.

Four of the five authorities receiving the biggest increases and none of the 11 receiving the lowest 6.4 per cent increase are in the capital.

Two-year budgets are designed to provide stability for headteachers and were announced in the same week as the latest two-year pay deal for teachers.

The pay deal will add about 2.8 per cent per year to the cost of teachers'

salaries and covers the academic years 2006-07 and 2007-08 rather than the financial years covered by the funding settlement.

Funding increases will be delivered through the new ring-fenced dedicated schools grant which local authorities have to spend on schools.

Jacqui Smith schools minister, said the increase would help schools pay for workforce reform, personalised learning, catch up classes and increases in early years provision.

John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association general secretary, welcomed the above-inflation increase. "It will enable us to meet the ever-increasing demands of the Government and the public," he said.

But he said that local authorities would need to ensure secondary budgets were increased faster than the minimum guarantee.

And he said the Government needed to find better ways of targeting money towards disadvantaged pupils than increasing the overall funding for London and other deprived areas.

Councillor Alan Charles, Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for school planning, said: "On the face of it the settlement of 6.45 per cent looks promising, and is welcome.

"But in the context of funding issues in the past, where we have been treated unfairly, it would appear to contine the trend of Derbyshire being among the authorities to receive the lowest increases compared to other authorities."

Chris Davis, National Primary Heads Association, welcomed the higher increase for primaries but said it would not be enough to allow schools to employ qualified teachers to provide non-contact time for staff.

John Bangs, National Union of Teachers head of education, said the Government would struggle to hit its 2008 target to increase education spending as a proportion of national income to the average for developed countries.

The Government's original plans were changed to take into account the gripes from those councils which spend more than the amount the Government expected them to.

A spokesman for Warwickshire council said: "The Government met us halfway.

We would have liked more but it could have been a lot worse."

He said the authority was disappointed it will receive a rise below the national average.

Critics of the funding settlement, including the Audit Commission public spending watchdog, have said that minimum funding increases serve to perpetuate unfairness in the system.

* jon

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