The shame is in continuing with an unfair system

28th April 1995 at 01:00
The inspirational article by Sir Malcolm Thornton, chair of the Education Select Committee, (TES, April 7) sets a challenging agenda for the newly-formed National Primary Headteachers' Association - one the association is only too willing to address as it seeks to stress the needs of the primary child.

Several of the matters to which Sir Malcolm refers, such as the need for adequate monitoring and support time and the design of activity-led funding formulae, are already receiving the association's attention and our representatives at the recent national conference on local management of schools in Merton were delighted to hear the main speakers recognising the need for a new, purpose-built, transparent funding system for schools. We recognise that there are insufficient resources provided for education in general but our primary pupils are discriminated against within even this dismal level of funding. The present arrangements are clearly not working and this year's severe grant allocation has finally brought the financial pigeons home to roost.

The NPHA shares the select committee's and the Secondary Heads' Association's desires for a "new cake" based on a thorough analysis of the needs of children throughout their educational careers. Of course this new national system will have winners and losers but that is what we have at the moment. The difference will be that the reasons for such gains and losses will be seen and understood by all instead of, as now, being lost in what Sir Malcolm refers to as "the deliberate obfuscation" of the present funding system.

A new distribution of resources based on educational need will provide a means of addressing the well-documented disparity of funding between primary and secondary schools, between similar schools in the same authority and between similar schools in different authorities. When the Government introduced LMS it based it on a system that has now been shown to be failing. There is no shame in that - the shame will be in persisting in applying that system when it has been shown to be unfair.

The NPHA would be delighted to work with other interested parties in designing a formula that would ensure that children are not disadvantaged and discriminated against because of where they live or which particular sector of education they happen to be in. It is time for a change.

John Hyde

Assistant secretary

National Primary Headteachers' Association

Stretford, Manchester

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