Is the funding pot running dry?
“You want more?!”
The front cover of this festive edition of the SEJ offers a lighthearted view of an increasingly worrying issue for Scottish education – the emerging impasse between the Scottish Government and local authorities over the funding of major education initiatives.
Concern over education funding
With each new announcement from the Scottish Government – be it related to reducing class sizes, offering free school meals to young pupils, increasing nursery education provision or creating jobs for new teachers – the response from councils is consistently, “Where will we get the money from?”
And the response from the Scottish Government is ever more predictable – “It’s all in the Concordat”.
Leading from the chalkface
At the time of the signing of the so-called ‘historic’ Concordat budget agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA representing Scotland’s local authorities, the EIS warned that there were serious dangers for the funding of education.
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This was never better illustrated than at the time of the Scottish Government’s announcement of the rollout of free school meals for all primary 1 – 3 pupils by 2010. This announcement was warmly welcomed by health and anti-poverty campaigners and created a lot of positive publicity for the Scottish Government.
But then the Councils began to ask how much extra money they would receive to implement this new initiative. And, much to the fury of already cash-strapped Councils across the country, the Government’s answer was that it was “all in the Concordat” to which the local authorities had already signed up.
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The Councils wanted greater budget autonomy and the removal of ring-fenced funding, and they got it. But, at what price? While ringfencing had its problems, excessive amounts of administration among them, it also ensured that a specific sum of money was allocated for Government priorities. With the allocation of one global funding pot via the Concordat, the Government is now able to announce initiatives and leave it to the local authorities to find ways to deliver them through their existing funds.
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Many local authorities are now discovering that there is a fundamental incompatibility between a Government setting national priorities while also offering greater autonomy for local authorities. As our front cover illustrates, local authorities are now arguing that their allocation from the funding pot is meagre and that they need more. How will the Scottish Government respond? The answer to that question will have major implications for Scottish education and for teachers, pupils and students right across the country.
Season’s greetings from the EIS
The EIS wishes all of its members all the best for the festive season, and a healthy and happy New Year. Particular thanks must be paid to all those members, from establishment level to Local Association and through national EIS bodies, who give so much to the EIS. Your work on behalf of your colleagues and for Scottish education is invaluable and greatly appreciated by everyone associated with the EIS.
Cover illustration by Steve Carroll
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The SEJ Editor, 46 Moray Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BH F: 0131 220 3151 E: email@example.com
The question must be asked if the local authorities fully considered the implications of what they were signing up to. While they gained an increased budget settlement as a result of the Concordat, they also signed up to deliver a broad raft of Government commitments. And, some argue, they signed up to take the blame if these commitments are not met. Added to this, by agreeing to freeze Council tax, they removed the only avenue open to them to raise additional revenue to help address local needs.
Educational Institute of Scotland 3