maintained schools had to face funding cuts this year is no real surprise.
For much of the 1990s they enjoyed direct funding levels well above those of local education authority-controlled schools.
According to the Department for Education and Employment, in 1997-98 GM secondaries received an average of pound;120
per pupil more than LEA
Thus, a 1,200-pupil GM school would have received on average pound;144,000 more than a non-GM school.
Although the figures for 1998-1999 are not yet available, it is likely that the differential will have fallen. Many GM secondary schools did lose considerable sums of money on their return to LEA-controlled funding in April. To some extent, however, this may have been mitigated by the introduction of the Government's new Fair Funding scheme which transfers more cash from LEAs to all schools.
Whether parents should top up the cash lost by GM schools is an important issue, but not a new one.
In the 1970s schools in Surrey were asking parents for annual donations of pound;5 per pupil. Earlier this year, the British Educational Suppliers Association estimated that parent-teacher associations raised pound;63 million for primary schools and pound;27m for secondaries in a single year.
Local businesses chipped in with a further pound;14m, and the supermarket "in kind" schemes added nearly another pound;18m. Fair fund-raising rather than Fair Funding may yet pose the biggest challenge to achieving equal educational opportunities in schools.
John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Email: