Spending gap review revealed

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Minister hires consultants to cut red tape, but unions say only increased funding will end disparity with England

A major review of education funding announced by the Assembly government this week will fail to bridge the spending gap with England, teaching unions have warned.

Education minister Leighton Andrews wants the independent review to look at the cost of administering education across Wales to ensure that more money reaches the "front lines" - schools, colleges and universities.

External consultants will begin the exercise next month and the minister wants recommendations for making savings and reallocating funds on his desk by March.

A wider review of administering education across Wales will follow.

Speaking to TES Cymru last month, Mr Andrews said he wants the education system to become "smarter and simpler" by reducing bureaucracy and making better use of scarce resources.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has also promised to increase education spending by 1 per cent above the block grant from Westminster from 2011.

But while the latest initiative has been welcomed by unions and politicians, they say moving money around the system will not be enough to make up the pound;496 per pupil funding gap with England, and that more investment is urgently needed.

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, said: "This is only moving the agenda sideways. Closing the funding gap cannot be about a redistribution of resources; it has to be about increasing funding.

"This is a step in the right direction, but it will not affect the funding gap unless we increase the size of the pot."

Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, said: "I'm not sure we can find enough money through this to fully fund the commitments made.

"An awful lot of information about how the system works is already out there. I think we have reviewed ourselves sufficiently; it's now time to do something."

Shadow education minister, Tory AM Paul Davies, said: "We don't need a review to tell us that far too much money which should be spent on teaching is wasted on bureaucracy.

"Educational reform is desperately needed if we are to stop the growing achievement and funding gap between students in Wales and those in England."

There was also anger over the fact that the government is spending public money on external consultants to find out how public money is being spent.

However, Mr Andrews is confident there will be early gains from the initial stage of the review.

He said: "Major performance improvement and better efficiency from our education providers is the key to us getting more funding to the front line.

"We put money into the education system not to sit in county halls but to be spent in schools, colleges and universities."

Speaking to TES Cymru earlier this month David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth University, predicted that the spending gap with England would grow to more than pound;500 per pupil when new figures are released next week.

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