Real growth in the primary sector

5th April 1996 at 01:00
But inflation negates apparent increases in secondary spending, Government figures show. Primary school funding per pupil is growing at the expense of secondary school spending, though with just Pounds 1,660 per child in 1994-95 primaries still have some way to go to catch up with the Pounds 2,260 average secondary pupil cost.

Latest Department for Education and Employment figures show unit costs in nursery and primary have risen by 4 per cent in real terms since 1991-92 when schools began to be locally managed.

Secondary spending per pupil fell by over 3 per cent over that period after inflation was allowed for (see table 1).

Overall spending in all local authority-maintained schools in England rose by Pounds 130 per pupil between 1991-92 and 1994-95. In real terms, however, this represented a reduction of more than 1 per cent.

Teaching costs per pupil have hardly changed in real terms since local management began, though a smaller number of teachers are now being paid more in real terms to teach for less of the time but in bigger classes.

To help them, spending on support staff has increased by 22 per cent; that is 34 per cent in cash terms to an average of Pounds 162 a pupil (table 2).

The latest figures for England included in the DFEE annual report also show spending on books and equipment per pupil rose by just Pounds 9 a pupil between 1991-92 and 1994-95 - a 2 per cent rise since LMS began after inflation is accounted for, though the actual price increases for these items may have been much higher than general inflation.

Spending on repairs and maintenance has fallen substantially as schools took on this responsibility. For every Pounds 100 spent per pupil in 1991-92 schools spent the real terms equivalent of Pounds 88 in 1994-95. This may be deceptive for a number of reasons, however, since the number of pupils has risen by 4.4 per cent over that period.

At the same time, the maintenance requirement per child may have fallen since the increased numbers are taught in 2.7 per cent fewer schools.

Lower spending on maintenance does not necessarily mean less maintenance either, since one of the aims of local management was to ensure greater efficiency and value for money. Schools can often negotiate cheaper local rates for minor repairs than education authorities or even have premises support staff carry them out for the cost of the materials.

Other figures show that teacher salaries have been rising much faster than annual salary awards would suggest they should. One recent analysis (table 3) suggests teachers pay improved in real terms at almost twice the rate of their salary settlements between 1980 and 1992 because of "wage drift" - increases in average salary due to upgradings and increments on top of cost of living awards.

Teacher non-contact time has also increased, especially in primary schools.

Nevertheless, the DFEE annual report shows that while average teaching costs per pupil rose in cash terms by 9 per cent from Pounds 1,199 to Pounds 1,307 between 1991-92 and 1994-95, the cost in real terms remained about the same. Increased pupil- teacher ratios and class sizes have offset higher salaries.

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