THE FINAL line can now be drawn under the accounts of the previous Conservative government.
As expected, unit funding per pupil in local education authority-maintained primary and secondary schools fell in real terms in 1997-98, compared with the previous year.
This was the last year council budgets were set under the Conservatives. In secondary schools, spending per pupil reached its lowest level for more than a decade. In primary schools it was back to 1992-93 levels.
To restore funding, just to the levels of 1993-94 in secondary schools, would require extra spending of more than pound;300 million, at 1997-98 prices.
In fact, the Government's
figures show education spending on secondaries for 1998-99 rising by only about pound;109 million at 1997-98 prices.
This is despite the fact that in England and Wales there are expected to be 110,000 more secondary pupils this year than there were in 1997. In many cases the increase in funding may do no more than compensate schools for the amounts they had been using from their previously-saved balances.
Primary schools suffered a smaller reduction than secondary schools, and special schools experienced their second consecutive rise. Their unit funding has now risen by about 2 per cent in real terms between 1995-96 and 1997-98.
Elsewhere in the education system, although funding in higher education has risen slightly, further education has suffered a similar fate to secondary schools. The figures for 1998-99 should show an improvement in funding but will still be unlikely to reach the levels of the early 1990s.
John Howson is a visiting professor
at Oxford Brookes University. Email: email@example.com