Letter: Labour should think again

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Sir: Roy Hattersley MP (Letters, 27 June) in his philippic against the Labour Party's policy statement, Diversity and Excellence, asks the very apposite questionwhat formula the party intends to use to ensure "fair and open" funding for all schools.

This is a crucial question that the Labour Party failed to address in its policy document. It is our view that the funding system encapsulated in the Local Management of Schools scheme, and whose extension is advocated in the document, contains inherent flaws that result inevitably in unfairness and inconsistencies.

We believe that, since schools are now legally obliged to teach a National Curriculum, there is an obligation on the government to ensure that all schools are suitably staffed in order that the National Curriculum can be taught. This requires the production of a national staffing model which could lay down the required number of staff in schools of varying sizes. The schools should then be funded, through the Local Education Authorities, on the basis of that model; and schools should not be able to divert that money into other uses. If the LEA wished to supplement that expenditure by providing extra staffing, they would be free to do so.

Built into the model would be the provision for extra staffing in schools in areas of deprivation advocated by Roy Hattersley. The implementation of such a strategy would, however, challenge the assumption that total flexibility in staffing matters results in equity or fairness. It does not, and it is a pity that the Labour Party missed this opportunity to test this assumption by the introduction of some radical thinking about the funding of schools. I hope there will be another opportunity before David Blunkett is finally ensconced as Secretary of State for Education.

Yours sincerely,

Eamonn O'Kane

Deputy General Secretary

NASUWT

London, WC2

28 June

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