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Wednesday, 04 May 2011 21:43

Top Kent schools get millions in funding meant for deprived inner city pupils KOS May 2011

EXCLUSIVE - Top Kent schools get millions in funding meant for deprived inner city pupils

More than £4.5 million a year of Government funding is being "unfairly" pumped into selected schools to spend as they wish through a project abolished five years ago.

And despite the grants being designed specifically to help schools in deprived urban areas, many of those in Kent receiving the no-strings-attached cash are in affluent areas or are grammar schools.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Peter Read of Kent Independent Education Advice revealed a total of £4.5 million was being handed over annually through the former Excellence in Cities scheme, which was abolished in 2006.

The project looked to raise standards in deprived and underachieving schools in cities and urban areas through ring-fenced grants.

Some high-achieving secondary schools were allocated money to help selected primaries.

Once abolished, Kent County Council was required by the Government to continue payments and this year the ring-fencing was removed, allowing schools to spend the money as they wished with no restrictions.

But where 53 Kent schools – 35 primary and 18 secondary – benefit from thousands of pounds of the funding each year, around 540 are missing out.

A KCC consultation found the majority of schools supported the removal of the "unfair" system where similar schools receive vastly different levels of funding.

Although some recipients are in deprived areas or deemed to be underachieving, selective schools such as Harvey Grammar in Folkestone, Highworth Grammar School for Girls in Ashford, and Folkestone Grammar School for Girls receive £138,472, £106,722 and £153,213 respectively.

Pent Valley Technology College is handed £202,210 each year, The North School in Ashford £245,060, and The Towers School in Ashford £237,085.

Primary schools under the scheme receive around £40,000, although others were handed more, such as Kennington CofE Junior School with £58,371 and Cliftonville Primary School which got £74,927.

Mr Read called it a "disgraceful waste of money".

KCC cabinet member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Sarah Hohler, explained the original Excellence in Cities scheme wasa specific, ring-fenced grant, assigned using Government eligibility criteria.

"After the scheme ended, KCC and other local authorities were required by government to continue passing on the same level of per pupil funding as the year before," she said.

"While opposed to this approach, we had no say and could not vary the funding.

"As soon as it was announced in 2010 that these grants were to be ‘mainstreamed’ in 2011 and the ring-fencing removed, KCC consulted schools on proposals to remove all these historical anomalies and instead fund schools on our fairer local formula without reference to historical payments.

"The local Schools Funding Forum previously had the power to do this but, in late 2010, the Secretary of State removed this power. KCC asked the Secretary of State for his approval to implement these fairer local arrangements, phased over the next three years, but approval was refused.

"School budgets 2011-12 have therefore been issued still including these historical levels of grant funding.

"The Government will give no assurances or indications of future arrangements beyond March 2012, since it is now consulting on a wide-ranging review of the national school funding system."

Cllr Hohler said KCC remained committed to removing the anomalies, providing the Government did not replace local funding formulae with a single national one.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said the funding system was out of date and Government was considering a reform.

She added that distribution of school development grants was for KCC to determine in consideration with its Schools Forum.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:20

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