Total delegation is what we need

15th December 2000 at 00:00
I was horrified by the lack of vision in the Audit Commisioner's report. The rationale for not delegating funding seemed to lie with sustaining bad practices.

It said: "Some schools are only visited by auditors every three to four years." Like all medium-sized businesses, schools need an annual audit and a management letter making recommendations on strategic management of finance as well as internal controls. Without this support it is not surprising that some schools are failing to effectively manage funds or that headteachers are clinging insecurely to reserves. This audit should not lie with the LEA as it is not independent and it lacks commercial experience.

Also "Fewer than half the schools surveyed had linked their budget to their development plan." These are basic skills that can be taught and continuously improved on. The Government should be putting the same kind of effort into financial management training for heads as they have done for performance management. This is far more critical.

And "Central and local government need to work more closely together." My experience o date of both levels of government is that they lack the calibre of people to make this change in the medium term. Schools and pupils cannot wait for civil servants to make the necessary culture shift. However, schools are much more flexible medium-sized organisations that can effect change very quickly, if well-supported. It would therefore make more sense to go ahead with delegation.

In all the wrangling over who controls the funds the key question of how much does it actually cost to educate a pupil at each key stage was lost. Schools need to know this figure and to receive 100 per cent of the funds. This would then give them the information and reassurance to plan ahead for three to five years. This funding should be linked to an index of educational costs. Above this, central and local government can enjoy themselves having any number of initiatives confident in the knowledge that every school in the country has sufficient funds to educate every pupil properly. This is not the current situation.

Charlotte Davies Deputy head, Wallington High for Girls, Wallington, Surrey

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