Schools 'given extra pounds 13m': Payment for servcies are made twice over, analysis claims

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(First Edition)

OPTED-OUT SCHOOLS have received more than pounds 13m in 'extra' payments from local education authorities because of the Government's method of calculating their annual maintenance grants, it was claimed yesterday.

More than half of the 493 schools in England which have opted out of local authority control are being paid twice over for services they provide, resulting in reductions in resources for other schools. These findings come in an analysis by the independent body Local Schools Information, of figures released by Eric Forth, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Education.

Eight grant-maintained schools are receiving over pounds 150,000 a year more than they would have done if they had opted out this year, because of a change in the method of calculating the grant; 26 schools are receiving over pounds 100,000 more than if they had opted out this year, and 127 are receiving over pounds 50,000 a year more.

When a school opts out, its annual maintenance grant has two main components: a sum equivalent to what the local authority delegates to all schools under the devolved budgetary management system, and an additional sum, also paid by the local authority, to compensate the grant-mantained school for the services provided by the authority which it no longer receives. For schools opting out after April 1993 this additional sum is calculated according to a different percentage for each authority, but schools which opted out earlier receive a fixed-rate payment. Because some authorities delegate larger amounts than others for devolved budgetary management, many opted-out schools have received 'extra' money.

The Department for Education yesterday denied that the expected introduction of a common funding formula would financially squeeze grant-maintained schools. 'John Patten is committed to ensuring that (they) continue to get the extra funding they need to meet their added responsibilities as self-governing schools.'