Cllr Jeff Jones, WLGA education spokesperson said:
'We are happy to work with NAHT and SHA in making the case for more resources for education, but cannot agree with the call for a national formula. Local authorities are democratically accountable to their local communities and even the Audit Commission acknowledges that we are best placed to ensure that local interests are properly taken into account. People should remember that trade unions are there to represent their members, not make the case for local communities'.
Cllr Jones added:
'Fair Funding has already led to large salary increases for many headteachers, with some earning in excess of£70,000 a year, more than many directors of education. Obviously, with their new responsibilities, headteachers need to be properly remunerated, but we should not confuse the message from their trade unions with an objective voice on behalf of education. Local authorities and the National Assembly have hugely increased expenditure on education, often at the expense of other vital public services. It is time to properly celebrate this fact while accepting that there is still more to do, especially in the case of school buildings, instead of constantly belittling substantial achievements not just in providing more resources, but also in producing ever-better results.'
The facts are that in Wales, expenditure per pupil by local authorities is higher than the average for all regions of England, excluding London. These figures are contained in the Statistical Brief produced by the national assembly, and take account of all specific grants as well as funding through the Revenue Support Grant. These are the facts and no amount of propaganda will change them.
The national assembly report on education budgets for this year shows that:
- Education budgets have increased by£92,703m to£1,405,672m
- The amount delegated to schools has increased by£100.026m to£1,096.948m (up 7%) which includes funding for new delegations from 1 April 2000 and£13.8m identified for teachers pay restructuring
- Over 2 years 1999-2000 to 2000-01 authorities have increased education budgets by£165.575m and delegated schools budgets by£156.246m
- The increases demonstrate the commitment of local authorities in Wales to giving priority to education - increases range from 6% to 10%
- Overall 81% of Local Schools Budgets are delegated to schools
The increase in expenditure on education by local authorities was more than£1.5m higher than the amount received from the national assembly. The amount delegated to schools was more than£9m higher than the£91m increase received by local authorities. These are facts, and the accusations that local authorities are not passing money on to schools are not true.
The Audit Commission recently looked at the funding system, and considered whether there should be change. They found that:
* up to 15 per cent of schools have significant weaknesses in financial control
* schools do not always direct resources at priorities - half do not fully link their budgets to their development plans
* headteachers have limited time for increasing financial responsibilities, particularly in small schools
They concluded that - 'the present funding system needs to be improved, not replaced.
* the current split of responsibility between government and councils gives choices to those best placed to make them
* although there are wide variations between schools, most comparable schools receive similar levels of funding
* local control, exercised in consultation with schools, is necessary to take account of the needs of schools and local priorities'
There are variations between authorities in Wales, and these are to be expected. It is inevitable that rural counties such as Powys and Ceredigion will spend more per pupil than urban councils like Cardiff. The higher costs of small schools and school transport account for almost all of this. The association and the national assembly are working together to better understand the differences, but no national formula will ever properly account for the differing costs of providing education in urban and rural areas.
- Report on Budgets set by Local Authorities for Education Services in 2000-01 - National Assembly for Wales, July 2000.
- Audit Commission, Money Matters: School Funding and Resource Management (national report) ISBN 1 86240 257 4
- National Statistics Statistical Brief SDB 57/2000 - Local Authority Expenditure on Schools