TEACHERS’ leaders last night called on councils to explain where money taken from their education budgets had gone.
Figures from the National Association of Headteachers Cymru show 14 of the 22 councils have not spent all the money they expected on education.
In England education funding cannot be spent elsewhere by councils.
But in Wales they are free to use the money in other areas, such as social services.
Last night the Welsh Assembly Government insisted it cannot stop councils diverting cash and has no plans to change the rules.
NAHT Cymru school funding consultant Iwan Guy said there was a “funding fog” enabling cash meant for schools to vanish unaccounted for.
He said the WAG should consider ring-fencing education funding to ensure adequate funding of schools, many of which are running at a deficit. One, Garth Primary in Maesteg, has a £10,000 deficit, he said.
NAHT Cymru’s figures are based on Indicator-Based Assessment (IBA) funding related to education. Under the system the WAG suggests, targets for spending are based on what councils say they will spend.
Just 75.6% of education funding goes straight to schools and there has been a 10.9% increase in funding held back, according to NAHT Cymru.
Unallocated money in one area amounts to as much as £2,000 per school.
“We have no idea where the money is going,” Mr Guy said.
“It’s a funding fog. There should be a clear audit trail for all this money. All 22 local education authorities have different formulas for allocating money. If there’s a national curriculum, there should be a debate about whether there should also be a national funding formula.
“If the same curriculum is to be delivered in all 22 authorities then there should be a level playing field. At the moment some schools have to manage on less.
“The present system is not working. The alternative is that the money is ring-fenced.
“I would like the WAG to be proactive in asking why councils are not spending the money.
“Where is the money? We can’t seem to get an answer. Is it convenient that there is a fog?”
Mr Guy said it did not necessarily follow that schools with the least money got the worst results. But he pointed out that Denbighshire, with low funding, has just had two reports criticising the way it runs education.
The WAG and the Welsh Local Government Association said it was up to councils how best to spend their funding locally and that money for education had increased.
Pembrokeshire councillor and WLGA spokesperson for Lifelong Learning John Davies said, “Councils are committed to ensuring fair funding of schools.
“Despite increasing demands in other budgets like social services, education budgets continue to rise.
“Schools have control over more education spending then previously.
“Welsh councils have repeatedly ensured that the resource going to schools has increased, along with funding for essential support services such as school transport and support for pupils with special educational needs.”
A spokeswoman for the Assembly Government said councils set budgets for schools out of funding provided in the local government settlement.
“Local authorities are responsible for spending their allocations year on year,” she said. “The WAG has no powers to impose sanctions on a local authority for not spending to its education IBA or any other level.
“All authorities complied with our request to report to their council, schools forum and the Assembly Government on their budgets this year.
“Comparing budgets against IBA in any one year, without looking at the efforts authorities have made to increase the level of their year-on-year investment in education, is not necessarily an accurate or fair reflection of spending performance.
“On a gross basis, budgets for local authority education services increased by 5.8% over last year, to a record high of £2.2bn.
“Per pupil funding is up by 7.4% to £4,757.”