Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Absence of Funding-Gap Stats Greeted with Disbelief: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Absence of Funding-Gap Stats Greeted with Disbelief: News

Article excerpt

Minister under fire as England v Wales comparison unavailable.

The funding gap between pupils in England and Wales has become a key battleground for Welsh politicians since it was first exposed by TES back in 2008.

In last year's Assembly elections campaign, education minister Leighton Andrews pledged to cut the disparity, which meant that pupils in Wales received Pounds 600 less than their peers in England in 2011.

So it was with considerable embarrassment that Mr Andrews had to admit last week that the latest figures could not be published. Statisticians have told him that comparisons can no longer be made - and have blamed the pace of change at Westminster for the problem.

Mr Andrews claims to be "profoundly disappointed" that the figures cannot be published, even though they were widely expected to show that the gap had continued to grow. Opposition politicians have accused the government of a "cover-up".

A spokeswoman for Kate Chamberlain, the chief statistician, said that she was "aware of the interest" in the comparison but that it had not been possible to compare the 2011-12 budgets. She blamed the "changing education policy landscape in England" as well as the large numbers of schools moving to academy status.

Angela Burns, shadow education minister, said that failing to publish the figures "flies in the face of transparency".

"Even without the latest figures, we know that the funding gap between Welsh and English schools has been widening and most recently stood at more than Pounds 600 per pupil," she said.

"With well-documented failings in school standards in Wales, parents should be entitled to see the extent to which Labour is underfunding our schools."

When Labour won last year's election, teaching unions sent them a unanimous message to make funding schools its number-one priority. Given the rhetoric, it is no surprise that last week's sudden announcement was met with anger. …

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