Headlines: February 4th, 2005

Primary schools in England are being deprived of urgently needed funding by local education authorities that are not spending the money intended for the schools, according to the National Association of head Teachers.It says returns from LEAs to the Department for Education and Skills, showing the funding position in the current financial year show that over a third of authorities do not spend up their Primary Schools Formula Spending Share. The NAHT says the failure to spend the money may be due to political reasons – such as the Council Tax- or for reasons such as the LEA having other priorities. Whatever the reasons, it says, many primary schools are losing out.

The NAHT says some LEAs only underspend by small percentages but others do so by large margins. It has produced a table of the worst “offenders” by local authority type, based on the amount of money that a typical 200-pupil primary school has been deprived of. It shows that in the London Borough of Brent a school has been left short of 47,800 pounds, while the figure in Islington is 47.200. Among Metropolitan Borough’s, Oldham’s underspend has cost schools 43,400 pounds and in Lincolnshire the shortfall for a 200-pupil school is 37,200. Brighton and Hove’s underspend is the most significant of the Unitary Authorities’, costing a typical school 39,200 pounds.

The reality says the NAHT, is that the shortfall amounts to millions of pounds across the 55 LEAs, but matters will improve when the promised three-year budgets are introduced. In the meantime, it is warning that primary schools, in too many parts of the country, are being expected to deliver important reforms such as the Workload Agreement when their LEAs are not even giving them the funding to which they are entitled.

David Hart, the NAHT General Secretary, says the Local Authority Funding System remains a mess, although three-year budgets promise to deliver a better deal for schools. “Although nationally across all schools of all types local government spends some 200 pounds million over the funding expected of them by Government, this masks enormous disparities. In particular, our analysis reveals an appalling position where thousands of primary schools are deprived of urgently needed funding by political or administrative LEA decisions. This makes a mockery of the drive to raise standards for primary pupils and short-changes heads who need the cash to deliver Workforce Reforms,” he adds.