Sending round begging bowl

20th February 2004 at 00:00
The NGC is developing a long-term strategy for tackling school funding concerns, reports Karen Thornton

You can forget about getting any extra cash for schools out of the Government next year, governors have been told by one of their national organisations. But now is the time to start the battle for better budgets in 2006, according to the National Governors' Council.

The council, which represents around 150,000 governors in two-thirds of English education authorities, wants to lobby MPs to put pressure on the Government as it gears up to review its spending priorities.

Meanwhile, NGC members remain concerned about the centralisation of school funding and the implications for local education authorities. Some, particularly in small authorities, are concerned that LEA services are being cut to the bone in the drive to ensure most of the available cash is directed into school budgets.

The next comprehensive spending review does not come into effect until 2006-7. But civil servants are already beginning work on the review, which sets spending limits for every area of government activity for three years, according to Terry Pearson, an NGC executive member.

At a recent meeting of NGC members who chair LEA governor associations, he argued that the NGC should start lobbying now for a better deal.

Floors and ceilings - limiting the extent to which some schools and LEAs lose or gain from changes in the formula - had appeared because there was not enough cash in the system to make it work, he said. Increases in funding last year had been wiped out by even bigger increases in unavoidable costs including pensions, pay and National Insurance.

"I propose we launch a campaign where you get in touch with your MPs and ask them to ensure that the next spending review contains adequate and sufficient funding for all schools from 20067 onwards. The measure of this will be the removal of all the floors and ceilings in the current formula," he said.

"We need to ensure sufficient money is there to do the job. We need to be assured that (the Government's) costing of what needs to be put into education is right. They failed last time."

The meeting agreed in principle to the lobbying campaign, which would involve associations tackling their local MPs and the NGC organising a meeting for parliamentarians in London.

But several NGC members were as concerned as much about the impact of funding difficulties on their LEAs as their schools.

Patricia Astwood, from Calderdale, said: "It's not just schools that require adequate funding, it's the local authority as well. We have had an absolutely excellent budget for schools but our LEA budget, because it is capped by the Government, has gone up by only half of what schools' budgets have gone up by.

"We have between 6.5 and 6.7 per cent more in schools, but the LEA has only 3.7 per cent - which is virtually a standstill budget. If schools decide not to buy into (the LEA's) traded services, then certain services could disappear."

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