THE best funded schools in Wales have £300 less to spend on each schoolchild than the worst funded in England, new research reveals.
At this weekend's Secondary Heads Association Cymru annual conference in Llandrindod Wells, a new study claims that despite reassurances to the contrary from the Education Minister, schools in Wales are not as well off as those over the border.
Union president John Hopkins said its national funding consultant compared a sample of schools in Wales which are relatively well funded to similar schools in England in the lower quartile of funding allocations.
"The results show that there is a pretty consistent trend of between £200-300 less per pupil spend in Wales than in England.
Geoff Mason, head teacher at The Maelor School in Wrexham, compared his budget with a school across the border in England, where there are 50 fewer pupils and found that he had £200 less per pupil than the head in England.
"That worked out as £160,000 over the year, according to 2003-04 figures," said Mr Hopkins. "That would mean he could employ another five teachers and instead of the normal class size of 28 to 32, he could reduce it to 24 to 26.
"He could also appoint two more teaching assistants so that the less able students could have help once a week rather than once a fortnight.
"He would then have £15,000 for textbooks so that students didn't have to share maths and English books and he would still have money left over.
"This is not fair. In England we know some of the money goes direct to schools, but in Wales it all goes through local education authorities, and we keep arguing that we deserve better.
"We are calling on Jane Davidson to ensure that the Assembly Government puts public money properly into education. Surely we must give children a fair chance."
The conference heard the preliminary findings of Lyndsey Wharmby are now to be supplemented with a much larger piece of research, and every head was given a form to complete, detailing their own school's budget.
Currently allocations for education from Westminster are given straight to the Assembly, which filters their allocation through LEAs, to be spent where the local council deems appropriate.
Mr Hopkins said the source of the money was irrelevant - head teachers simply wanted their fair share to spend on children's education.
The research mirrored a study by Professor David Reynolds, education expert from Exeter University. After speaking to the conference, Prof Reynolds said, "My worry is that if you look at everything we know, Wales should be spending more.
"The travel to schools budget is higher, the workforce is older and more expensive and the school buildings are older and require more maintenance. Yet if we look at these figures, somewhere we are pruning and scrimping."
Conservative AM David Davies said, "Hopefully this will prove what head teachers have been telling us and we can look at where the money is being used.
"I think head teachers are perfectly capable of making budget decisions for their school and we should trust them to do that."
Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black said that many local authorities are faced with a huge dilemma when trying to make a poor settlement stretch to cover each of their responsibilities.
"If these figures are right the Assembly must address the amount councils receive and see if this is adequate."