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Rumours abound that ring-fencing of education funding is back. 'Downing Street wants it,' one civil servant told me...
Rumours abound that ring-fencing of education funding is back. 'Downing Street wants it,' one civil servant told me, implying a decision may already have been made. If so, the government could be about to make a big mistake.

From the perspective of those advocating ring-fencing, the case is clear. Education, they argue, takes place in school, so to raise attainment funding must be channelled directly to head teachers.

In this way, councils would be prevented from diverting funding to other purposes and make it easier for the Department for Education and Skills to make a case for additional resources.

But there are several flaws in this argument. Most importantly, while teaching may take place in schools, learning can take place anywhere. There are often better opportunities outside the classroom to develop in children both the capacity to learn - to socialise, to use language, to maintain attention - and the desire to do so.

This is why one of the most significant contributions to raising educational attainment I have witnessed in Camden recently was a group of children from some of our most deprived primary schools learning about map making at the British Library during their school holidays.

These children were taking part in the second year of a project organised through our play service and those who participated last year are still talking about it. So are their teachers.

Formal evaluation has shown the project has a real impact in raising self-confidence, reinforcing term-time teaching and promoting reading as a leisure activity.

Other impressive projects I have seen include sports and drama schemes that help build confidence and raise aspirations, and work with parents to promote the value of education.

These projects have been developed in conjunction with our education department and support the argument for retaining education within local government.

Children spend longer outside school than in it, and the school day is inevitably focused on the delivery of the national curriculum. But other influences can undermine the work of even the most skilled teachers.

Raising educational attainment requires a more holistic approach. If, in the judgment of those closest to local needs, this can best be served by spending more outside the classroom, councils should be free to make that choice.

Steve Bundred

Chief executive, Camden LBC

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