School rolls affecting budgets

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SCHOOLS are having to make tough choices about budget proposals because of the financial effects of changing school rolls, it was revealed yesterday.

A report published by the National Association of Head Teachers on the impact of schools having control of their own budgets, reveals that a substantial number are experiencing big changes in student numbers.

About one third of primary schools are losing or gaining more than 10 pupils a year, according to the research conducted for the union by Birmingham University. As schools are now largely funded according to number of pupils, this could have a significant impact on budgets. And from next April, the proportion of budgets allocated according to pupil numbers goes up from 75 to 80 per cent of the total.

Dr Hywel Thomas, of Birmingham University, said that primary schools were experiencing a roll change of 4 per cent, and year-on- year a change of 3.5 per cent in their budgets. He said that 3 per cent of a budget would be spent on books and equipment, so this was 'quite significant'.

At the secondary level, 43 per cent of schools recorded a change in pupil numbers of about 2.5 per cent, or about 20 pupils leaving or joining.

The reason for pupil mobility is put down to parents moving rather than the popularity of schools or competition between them, which is mentioned by only 7 per cent of the heads questioned. Dr Thomas said that the Department of Education was unable to supply figures for pupil changes prior to Local Management of Schools (LMS).

The survey of more than 800 schools found that head teachers overwhelmingly think that LMS has led to a more efficient use of resources, but the increased workload has led to 'unacceptable pressures'.

The Impact of Local Management on Schools, from the School of Education, Birmingham University, PO Box 363, Birmingham, B15 2TT. pounds 25.00 plus p&p.