Oratory school in cash crisis gets more money per pupil than its neighbours

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THE SCHOOL attended by Tony Blair's sons, which is asking parents to bail it out of a financial crisis, is receiving up to pounds 374 more for each pupil than neighbouring schools with similar exam results.

During the past five years, the London Oratory School has also had pounds 500,000 more than local schools because of preferential funding given by the previous government to grant- maintained schools. And it has received pounds 778,000 in capital grants for special projects from the pot of money reserved for schools that opted out of local authority control.

Last week, John McIntosh, the Oratory's head and a former adviser to the Conservatives, wrote to parents asking for voluntary payments of up to pounds 45 a month and blaming the Government's funding changes for a pounds 250,000 deficit. He said the money was needed to maintain the school's achievements.

Yesterday it was revealed that Mr McIntosh was already negotiating a pounds 250,000 loan with Hammersmith and Fulham Council when he sent the letter to parents asking for money. The loan was agreed in July, subject to the production of a business plan.

His critics argued yesterday that the Government's changes caused by the abolition of grant- maintained status had made only a small difference to the Oratory's finances: Mr Mc- Intosh's problems were mainly the result of the previous government's decision five years ago to phase out rules that allowed grant-maintained schools to be paid twice over for some services.

Martin Rogers of the Education Network, which promotes standards through local councils, said: "Mr McIntosh's claims are preposterous. His income is grossly inflated compared with neighbouring schools and any reduction in income from its peak level are mostly to do with the removal of the rules on double-funding by the previous government. The changes that have arisen from the removal of grant-maintained status are marginal."

Figures from Hammersmith and Fulham, the local authority through which the Oratory's funds are channelled, show that this year the school is receiving pounds 2,994 for each pupil compared with the nearby Sacred Heart, the Catholic school attended by Kathryn Blair, the Prime Minister's daughter, which gets pounds 2,620. Another local church school, Lady Margaret, receives pounds 2,733.

Last year 88 per cent of pupils at the Oratory achieved five or more top grades at GCSE compared with 87 per cent at Lady Margaret and 69 per cent at the Sacred Heart.

Mr McIntosh was unavailable for comment yesterday.