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Unfair funding 'hurts pupils'

CHIEF INSPECTOR'S REPORT.

CHIEF inspector Chris Woodhead this week added his voice to the gathering campaign for action to end huge funding disparities between schools.

Speaking at the launch of his annual standards report, Mr Woodhead said it was "unacceptable" that some primaries received more than pound;2,500 per pupil, while others had to make do with pound;1,300.

In secondaries, the disparity was equally stark, funding varying from pound;1,900 to more than pound;3,000 per pupil, Mr Woodhead's report reveals.

The chief inspector said: "I think it's unacceptable, given that we have a national curriculum and a national pay structure for teachers, that there should be such wide variations in the income that schools receive.

"We do not, as yet, have a transparent and educationally defensible mechanism for the equitable devolution of resources from central government to local authorities and from LEAs to schools. We should."

Mr Woodhead said he accepted that the issue was highly technical and it was unlikely any government would be able to introduc change in one parliament.

"But when we have variations that are as dramatic as they are, the Government needs to look at what it can do," he said.

Mr Woodhead said some authorities were partly to blame for cash not reaching schools by "wasting" money routinely monitoring the work of successful schools.

Though he was careful not to spell out how the inequalities could be redressed, his comments will greatly strengthen calls for a national funding formula.

In recent months, the two headteacher unions, the Liberal Democrats and the School Teachers' Review Body have all made the case for a national formula. The Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is reviewing local government funding and a Green Paper is expected in the summer.

A spokeswoman for the Local Government Association said that funding inequalities were not simply the result of local authority decisions.

Government initiatives such as Education Action Zones and Excellence in Cities also contributed to the disparities.

Warwick Mansell

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