Letter renews debate over postcode funding lottery

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

Education’s postcode lottery is still a reality in Wales with new figures showing the amount spent on pupils this academic year will vary across local authorities by more than £1,300.

A total of £2.5 billion has been allocated for schools for 2018/19, a rise of 0.9 per cent on last year. But how much each school gets per pupil depends on where they live.

Those in Powys will get the most, with £6,456 allocated per pupil compared to the lowest, £5,107 in the Vale of Glamorgan. That is a gap of £1,349.

Earlier this year the leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and the chair of the Schools’ Budget Forum jointly wrote to education secretary, Kirsty Williams, and all parents in the Vale highlighting concerns about what they described as “chronic underfunding” of education in the county.

The letter, signed by executive headteacher and forum chair Dr Vince Browne and Cllr John Thomas, highlighted how the Vale receives £606 less per pupil than the Welsh average and £1,360 less per pupil than the highest funded local authority.

Mr Thomas said: “We have some of the best schools and most able and enthusiastic teaching and support staff in Wales working here in the Vale of Glamorgan, but their work is being undermined by a flawed funding system.”

The majority of funding for pre-16 provision in maintained schools comes from local authorities, which in turn receive the majority of their funding through the annual local government settlement, set by the Welsh government.

A spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association said: “Per-pupil spending on education varies between each local authority because every authority is different and the costs of providing education will vary.

“For example, providing education in a sparsely populated rural area is much more expensive than providing the same service in a densely populated urban area because of the impact of transport and other related costs. Similarly, economic factors such as economic and social deprivation have to be taken into account.

“Local authorities seek to fund education in such a way as to ensure that learners are not disadvantaged by where they live, their socio-economic circumstances or any other kind of adverse or detrimental circumstances.”

He added: “Other factors which need to be taken into account include the number of pupils entitled to free school meals, the number with additional learning needs, and the number of looked after children within the authority.

“Councils constantly review education funding so as to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their learners, despite almost 10 years of cuts in revenue funding.”
The Welsh government tops up education budgets with specific grants. A spokesman said: “Despite the UK government’s continued austerity programme, we have taken action to safeguard local authorities and schools to support front-line services. The Welsh government does not fund schools directly.”


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