Bonanza for schools depends on meeting new targets

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Schools and universities will share an extra £12bn over the next four years, but only if they meet tough new targets for secondary pupils.

Schools and universities will share an extra £12bn over the next four years, but only if they meet tough new targets for secondary pupils.

The Government's carrot-and-stick approach in its Spending Review will also mean headteachers in England receive an extra £240m a year to spend as they wish, bypassing local education authorities. Heads and their staff welcomed the extra funding but said the new targets for 14-year-old pupils were "completely unnecessary".

A typical secondary school will see the amount of direct funding rise from £40,000 to £60,000 next year and by a further 2.75 per cent in each of the following two years. Primary school heads will receive an even bigger chunk of their budget with the direct grant rising from £9,000 to £20,000.

For the first time, however, schools will be expected to meet targets specifically aimed at 14-year-olds. By 2007, schools will be expected to bring 85 per cent of pupils aged 14 up to the expected standard in English, maths and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and 80 per cent up to the required standard in science. All local education authorities will be told to ensure that at least 38 per of pupils achieve five "good" GCSE grades.

New targets will also be set for pupils older than 16. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said he wanted to reduce Britain's "appallingly low staying-on rate". By 2004, 80,000 more people aged between 16 and 18 should be in full-time education and 60 per cent of 21-year-olds should have A-levels. By 2010, the majority of children should be going on to higher education.

Mr Brown's promise of extra money to widen access to university will amount to just £20m, part of an extra £100m for higher education next year. The Government has responded to outrage over the rejection of Laura Spence by Oxford University despite her excellent qualifications.

Ministers said funding per pupil would be £700 higher by the year 2003-04 than it was during Labour's first year in office. The £12bn extra funding for schools and universities includes £1bn that has already been announced.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, pointed out that education had done better than health. In England the sector will receive a 6.7 per cent increase over the period covered by the review compared with 6.3 per cent for health. "This is the biggest investment in education for at least 20 years. It will take education spending to record levels, with real-terms increases in education and training in England averaging 5.6 per cent over the period," he said.

Graham Lane, the chairman of the Local Government Association's education committee, said: "This is a good settlement. There's no excuse for schools saying they do not have enough money to drive up standards. But a lot of it will be taken up by increases in teachers' salaries and funding rising pupil numbers."

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, attacked the new targets for 14-year-olds as "completely unnecessary". "The Government has already set GCSE targets which require secondary schools to maximise performance over five years," he said. "You do not give targets halfway through the course in three subjects out of the 12 or so that are commonly done by most people. I don't see the point of setting targets for 14-year-olds when when have to raise performance across all subjects after the full five years."

Mr Dunford welcomed the additional £20,000 in direct funding to schools next year, but warned that it was "only 10 to 15 per cent of the budget. I want to see what the settlement for the other 85 per cent is."

Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Education's share of Mr Brown's bounty will go a long way towards persuading teachers that the Government means what it says about its priorities." Tom Wilson, the universities representative at the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, described the settlement for higher education in 2001-02 as pathetic. He said: "It is obvious that they [the Government] have taken a deliberate decision to pretend to do something about access because of Laura Spence, but have done nothing at all and ploughed it all into schools."

The increases for higher education contained in the settlement were insignificant when compared with the annual university teaching budget of more than £3bn, he said."We asked for about £1bn a year over three years and the vicechancellors asked for £1.5bn a year." But officials said it would be the first year in which universities had not had to make "efficiency savings". And universities welcomed extra funding for science and enterprise.

Diana Warwick, the chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals said: "Universities have campaigned vigorously to make the case for more investment. For the short-term [year one], universities have won the argument. We congratulate the Government on delivering a real-terms increase in funding per student for the first time in over a decade."

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