Thousands join protest at unequal funding

9th March 2001 at 00:00
Thousands of parents, teachers, and governors from areas with the lowest-funded schools have flooded the Government with demands for more money, writes Karen Thornton.

The demands made up most of the responses to a Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions consultation on reforming local government funding - making up some 88 per cent of responses received.

But no more than 17 per cent of the responses backed a nationally fixed amount of funding per pupil, something headteacher associations have been campaigning for, but which Education Secretary David Blunkett ruled out this week.

Instead, most respondents called for a "levelling up" of per-pupil funding so poor authorities could catch up. Peter Clarke, chairman of F40, which represents the 40 authorities with lowest per-pupil funding, was behind the campaign to target the consultation. He said: "When you get that number of parents interested, you are talking about an issue. Thisfundamental unfairness just has not been addressed." Levelling the poorest authorities up to the average would cost the Government some pound;619 million.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said he was not confident that a local-authority solution to the problem of unequal funding could be found. "I'm not confident that an amendment to the system will delivery equity and transparency. The Government must put in place legislation so that, if it doesn't work, they can quickly move to a national funding formula."

Meanwhile, the Association of London Government released a briefing pack that highlights extra pressures on the capital's schools: high pupil mobility, poverty, teacher recruitment problems, and many children with English as an additional language. Yet they receive less than pound;600 extra per pupil compared to average funding, said an ALG spokesman.

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