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Education spending a sick joke, says MP.

Byline: Jason Beattie

The Government's funding of schools in Worcestershire has turned its mantra 'education, education, education' into a sick joke, an MP has claimed.

Conservative Sir Michael Spicer said there was no rhyme or reason to the present system of dispersing educational funds in the country.

He described the formulae used to determine budgets - the standard spending assessment and the area cost adjustment - as 'a dog's breakfast' and said it had historically penalised schools in Worcestershire.

'It is not based on real needs or genuine costs but on history and on the perceived view that it would be unacceptable to rock the boat by changing the existing pecking order between Local Education Authorities.

'The dynamics of the position is that those who get the least get relatively even less as time goes by,' said the MP for West Worcestershire.

Sir Michael said the mechanism used to rectify any inequality - the area cost adjustment - had become a nonsense.

'I cannot find any difference in cost - or indeed needs - between, say, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. Yet Wiltshire is 23rd on the league table of secondary school recipients and Worcestershire is 31st,' he said.

The Conservative MP acknowledged the Government had introduced a Green Paper on modernising the system but said the changes were unlikely to come into force until 2003-04.

'Meanwhile there is no question that under the present arrangements, unless class sizes are going to rise dramatically, budget shortfalls lies ahead.

'Government, of whatever party, has not only a duty to tackle gross lack of parity of treatment such as this. It is also sensible to do so,' he said.

Sir Michael called on the Government to abolish the 'mumbo jumbo masquerading as a rational formula' and replace it with a procedure which was easily understood.

The Tory MP was backed by fellow Worcestershire MPs Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire) and Julie Kirkbride (Con Bromsgrove) who said they had been inundated with letters about the subject.

Schools Minister Estelle Morris (Lab Birmingham Yardley) said this year schools in Worcestershire had received more than pounds 26 million for capital expenditure compared with pounds 6 million in the last year of the Conservative Government.

'I am not seeking to defend a formula that ill serves the children of Worcestershire - that would be dishonourable and dishonest. I am saying that we are trying our best with all reasonable speed to change that,' she said.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 5, 2001
Words:405
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