Letter: Schools need more cash

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The Independent Online
DAVID BLUNKETT, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, in his letter of 9 April, gives only a partial view of education spending.

It is perfectly true that extra grants are being given to start on the backlog of repairs and maintenance under the New Deal for Schools scheme, that every school has been given a thousand pounds for books, that nursery places are being funded and the literacy initiative is attracting specific funding, all of which is warmly welcomed. However, the money can only be spent as directed by the DfEE on these projects.

The great hole in education funding is the Standard Spending Assessment (SSA), which has to pay for teachers' salaries and the administration of our schools. Even with limited recognition by the Government that the SSA was insufficient, no extra cash was forthcoming. The extra funding for education was to be raised by increasing Council Tax. Many local authorities, my own among them, actually received a cash cut. Nationally it is estimated that the shortfall is approximately pounds 1bn.

Faced with increasing bills for premature retirement and redundancy costs, with finding increased contributions to achieve matched funding from the Standards Fund, and with making up the difference between the perceived need as expressed in the Government's SSA and the actual level of spend (Wiltshire is not alone in having taken from its reserves over the past five years to achieve a higher spend on education), with Council Tax increased to the capping limit, there is still not enough money to properly fund our education service.

Inflation, increases in pupil numbers and the cost of the teachers' pay rise are all ignored by the Government. They have to be found by "efficiency savings". One man's efficiency savings is another man's redundancy. When pressed on this year's spending round the Prime Minister admitted it would be "tight". "Tight" means that we have in Wiltshire over 300 classes in our primary schools with more than 30 pupils. "Tight" means further redundancies, wasting skills and funds which should be in our classrooms.

Only when the basic level of Standard Spending Assessment is honestly and realistically funded can this government hope to deliver its pledges on education.


Chair of Education

Wiltshire County Council

Marlborough, Wiltshire