Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Funding Fog Thickens as Gap Remains a Mystery: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Funding Fog Thickens as Gap Remains a Mystery: News

Article excerpt

Comparison between Welsh and English budgets cancelled again.

January used to herald an eagerly awaited event on the Welsh education calendar: the publication of figures showing the per-pupil funding gap between Wales and England.

There was widespread shock in 2009 when the gulf was revealed to be almost Pounds 500 per pupil, with Wales on the losing end of the equation. By 2011 it had hit Pounds 604, leaving the Welsh government facing accusations that it was underfunding schools. But last January statisticians said the figure could no longer be published, blaming changes to the "education policy landscape" in England, including the rise in the number of academies.

Education minister Leighton Andrews claimed to be "profoundly disappointed" by the news and instructed his officials to look into the matter again. But almost a year on, they are no closer to a breakthrough and the annual update due for later this month has been cancelled.

Teaching unions are angry about the lack of information. They have spent much of the past decade campaigning for greater transparency and an end to the so-called "funding fog" around education.

"Ever since devolution, education has been underfunded," said Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT. "It is an issue no education minister has ever got to grips with.

"If schools are not properly funded they are not going to succeed, it's as simple as that. What the current minister has tried to do is shift the focus from underfunding to underachievement. We still want to see the figure. It should not be beyond the will and wit of the Welsh government to produce it."

Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said that Welsh schools suffered from "chronic underfunding".

"The current minister has made some progress, but the long-term damage done by his predecessors, who let the gap grow from nothing to over Pounds 600, will not be easily undone," he said. …

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