Schools (Funding)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Lifelong Learning – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 21st June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 21st June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it will take to address any inequalities in school funding across local authority areas. (S3O-281)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government distributes the bulk of funding to councils through the core local government finance settlement, on a basis that is agreed between the Executive and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Local authorities then set their own budgets for services, including education, and have discretion to allocate moneys as they judge those moneys are needed to deliver service priorities in their areas.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

The funding of individual secondary schools can fluctuate dramatically, even within local authority areas, although headteachers are equally accountable. Given that, does the cabinet secretary agree with the Headteachers Association of Scotland that all schools that are under democratic control should be funded under a commonly agreed basic formula that allows for rurality and deprivation when appropriate, to minimise the likelihood of students receiving an education that may suffer from what is in effect a postcode lottery for resources?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I appreciate headteachers' concerns, but we must reflect the accountability and democratic responsibility of individual local authorities for governing their educational provision and their schools. I acknowledge that we must have a fair, open and accountable system for funding schools, to ensure that schools that are in particular need because of deprivation or rurality, for example, have the resources that they require. We must also ensure that schools that deploy their funds successfully are not unnecessarily penalised for that.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

The cabinet secretary has announced additional funding, which will be used to pilot additional resources to achieve class sizes of 18. When will Scottish Borders Council be included in funding support for the reduced class sizes to which she has given a commitment? As she is aware, people in the Scottish Borders have low incomes and the situation is compounded by rurality. If my constituents in the Borders were left out of the pilot, would that not be a scandal? When will the pilot end?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

It is regrettable that previous Governments' management of the economy has left the Scottish Borders as one of the lowest-income areas in the country. That is why, as we are to deploy 300 new teachers in the system in August—in a matter of weeks—it is important that Scottish Borders Council makes representations to our officials as soon as possible, so that they can ensure that the Scottish Borders benefits from the 300 new teachers who will be provided. Information on areas of deprivation suggests that the Scottish Borders has a strong case for early receipt of the new teachers.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I have divided between the two themes for questions the time that we lost to points of order earlier, so we move now to questions on Europe, external affairs and culture.