Ulster funding breakthrough

5th May 2000 at 01:00
A NATIONAL funding formula - long demanded by headteachers - could be introduced in Northern Ireland as early as next year, while politicians in England are still on the starting blocks.

Education officials at the Northern Ireland Office are close to issuing proposals for a single funding framework for the province.

At the moment in England there are huge differences in funding between local authorities. There has been a growing clamour for a single formula to create a level playing field. Those supporting the idea include heads' associations, chief inspector Chris Woodhead, the School Teachers' Review Body and the Liberal Democrats.

The change in Ulster would be certain to produce winners and losers, with cash switching between priaries and secondaries, and grammar schools likely to lose out in some areas.

As a result any proposed formula is likely to be debated long and hard, with heads likely to demand that no school should lose out.

Fear of creating losers has made ministers reluctant to tackle the issue of a national funding formula for England - even though Education Secretary David Blunkett accepts there is scant justification for the present system.

In England, the matter is in the hands of the Department for the Environment, Transport and Regions, which is responsible for all local authority funding. The department will issue a Green Paper in the summer, but any changes would need legislation and are not likely to happen for several years.

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