20 May 1999
For immediate release
Six Sussex students have been asked to act as consultants to the Brighton and Hove Council Education Department. Sian Morgan, Francesca Barker, Lucy McKenzie, Michael Ktenas, Alex Iakovidis and Sinead McGuigan, all in their second year and studying economics, have been scrutinising the way schools are funded in the Brighton area. The students have recommended major revisions to the school-funding system, many of which are now set to be put into practice.
Under the supervision of tutor Mike Barrow, the students each investigated an area of funding policy which they pinpointed as problematic. Schools are funded according to how they fit into a prescribed formula, which covers the number of children in the school, the age of the school, the number of special-needs children who attend and so on. The students examined ways in which this formula could be tightened up.
Sian's research into curriculum protection allocation - the money which is earmarked for smaller schools to ensure they can teach the National Curriculum properly - produced some particularly striking results. She found that funding allocation is curbed in stages as school-numbers decrease: "Sometimes one more pupil could result in a great loss of money to the school as a whole - perhaps as much as £30 per pupil." She found that the current system penalises primary schools which cover more than one Key Stage of learning, and schools which have sixth forms. A school with 800 pupils up to GCSE level and 200 in a sixth form gets less cash per pupil than a secondary school with no sixth form which has 900 pupils in total. Sian recommended splitting funding allocation up into Key Stages, and smoothing out the stepped system of funding. The students also recommended funding sixth form pupils per qualification studied rather than per pupil.
The students' findings were taken very seriously by the council, who are looking to implement some of their recommendations. Francesca points out that having been involved in the education system so recently was a great advantage for the group - "We could establish ways of taking a step forward from our own experiences," - although Alex knew nothing about the British education system before he embarked on the project. Sian declares that their success is partly down to the fact that "we’re cheaper than Andersen Consulting".
For further information please contact Sally Hall, Information Office, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 678335, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Mike Barrow, School of Social Sciences, Tel. 01273 606755 ext 2459