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Grammars to lose out in funding shake-up


Irish News

Grammar schools face losing millions of pounds in a major funding shake-up. The most elite institutions are expected to be the biggest losers in a sweeping review of the common funding formula for schools.

It is the latest twist in a battle between education minister Caitriona Ruane and breakaway grammar schools planning new entrance tests.

Now grammars are now bracing themselves for a potential double financial blow.

Firstly the minister wants to target money towards social need – meaning it is expected that more cash will be awarded to post-primary schools in areas of high social deprivation.

Grammars traditionally attract the richest pupils in the north.

In addition the minister wants to invest more money in primary education because she is keen to tackle literacy problems early.

Ms Ruane has said there are too many children leaving school at age 16 with unacceptable standards of literacy and numeracy.

These problems with reading, writing and maths often begin in primary classes.

After seven years of primary education, thousands of pupils are still unable to read either aloud or silently at a satisfactory level.

The number falling behind spirals as they progress through primary school – five times more pupils struggle to meet targets in English in P7 compared to P4.

At present primary schools receive around £1,000 less per pupil each year than secondaries – around £3,000 compared to £4,000.

Now the minister wants to ensure more cash is poured into P1 classes than sixth forms.

Investing heavily in early years will see Ms Ruane win favour with heads and governors of almost 900 schools.

Some grammars stand to lose out further after being warned that the government is ready to stop part-funding their elite fee-charging preparatory departments.

There have been warnings that Ms Ruane is within her rights to pull the plug on funding the ‘preps’ at schools that defy her by continuing with academic selection.

There is a belief that public cash should not be awarded to semi-private primary schools whose admissions are determined by parents’ ability to pay.

Ms Ruane has endorsed an independent review that condemned the practice of funding preps, which charge more than £3,000 a year per pupil, as “unfair and insensitive”.

In 2008/09, the Department of Education awarded £1.9 million to 17 preps – all of them attached to non-Catholic schools.

The Bain review of 2006 said rewarding preps was an “inequitable use of public funds and counter-intuitive in a funding system simultaneously managing the pressures of a high level of surplus capacity”.

Earlier this year The Irish News revealed that grammar schools could also lose out on half a million pounds a year if their admissions numbers are cut to reflect “real academic selection”.

If in 2010 grammars continue to fill to capacity and take children, which some argue are not suited to their style of schooling, Ms Ruane can cut their intake, meaning a significant reductions in funding.



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