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Graham: Ending the school funding fog

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I am delighted to present the Committee on School Funding's report on school funding arrangements in Wales.

Members will recall that the committee was set up by the Assembly last year to review school funding arrangements, and to recommend how the system could be made clearer and simpler. This was realised despite the Assembly Government's opposition at the time. I am therefore pleased that the committee has been able to reach unanimous agreement on this report and its recommendations.

Committee members put aside party-political considerations to work together maturely, to agree important and wide-ranging recommendations to help to improve how schools in Wales are funded. I am also pleased to note, from the Minister's written statement yesterday, that the Assembly Government has broadly welcomed the report and, in principle at least, a number of its key recommendations.

The committee's report makes a series of recommendations aimed at making the school funding system more easily understood and accessible, particularly by those most directly involved: parents, teachers and school governors.

The committee's remit was wide-ranging, but our discussions focused on three broad issues: how funding here compares with that of our neighbours, particularly in England; how funding is distributed to schools—often described as a 'postcode lottery'; and how easy it is to understand how schools are funded, the so-called 'funding fog'.

First, do schools in Wales receive more or less money than schools in England? The evidence that we received was ambiguous. It seems clear that schools in Wales do not, generally, receive more money than schools in England.

However, whether they receive less overall depends on how you read the statistics; this may be something of a sterile debate. While it is important to understand how we compare with other countries, it is more important to ensure that school funding in Wales is adequate for our particular needs. The committee agreed that, while information on this is important, spending decisions in Wales should not be driven by what happens in other countries.

The way in which funding is distributed to schools in Wales is of rather more concern. It has been described as a 'postcode lottery'. That description may be rather unfair on those councils that try to make decisions in the best interests of their localities. However, the fact remains that there is wide variation in the funding that schools across Wales receive.

Some councils spend almost £1,000 more per pupil annually than others. The committee was far from convinced that this level of variation is justified. It is difficult to explain to teachers, governors and parents why their school is being funded at a much lower level than a similar school in a similar area. In our view, a considerable part of the reason for this is that the local government funding formula is driven by historic spending patterns rather than by the money that schools need now, and the funding that they will need in the future.

The main area that we considered on the funding fog was how easy it was to understand how schools are funded.

The committee spent a considerable amount of time looking in detail at how schools in Wales are funded and had the benefit of evidence from the Government's own statisticians.

Despite this, we were still left with the perception of a complicated system, which was difficult to understand and where accountability was unclear. If we had these difficulties understanding the current funding system, given the time and resources available to us, then teachers, governors and parents must find it almost impenetrable.

The report makes 27 specific recommendations. I do not intend to go through those in detail today, but I will highlight some of the key ones. First and foremost, it has dismayed us to find that the formula for distributing funding to local authorities is based on historic spending patterns.

In other words, the funding that the Assembly Government gives to local authorities for education is based on what spending used to be rather than on what it actually costs to run a school. We believe that it is vital that the overall funding arrangements for schools are based on an objective assessment of schools' current and future needs. Our first key recommendation therefore, recommendation 5, is for the Assembly Government:

'to review the education element of the local government distribution formula so that it is based on the current and future costs of providing education rather than on historic costs'.

Other key recommendations build on this approach. There is currently no common understanding of schools' basic funding needs. We recommend therefore, in recommendations 15, 16 and 17, that,

'Alongside a forward looking funding formula…the Assembly Government should establish basic funding requirements for…schools…and…local authorities should be expected to demonstrate that as a minimum they are spending up to that level'.

This will still leave councils free to determine local needs, but there will be better evidence to inform their decisions and they will be more accountable for their decisions if they choose to fund schools below basic levels of need. These, then, are our key recommendations: a forward-looking funding formula and schools funded according to agreed needs.

We also made a number of other important recommendations. We recommended that a three-year budget for schools be introduced as a priority. We believe that this recommendation will be widely welcomed, as it would help schools to plan more effectively and with greater certainty.

Although deprivation and sparsity are taken into account in allocating funding to LEAs, we are not convinced that the balance between the two is correct or is based on an objective assessment of need. We recommend that this should be reviewed to ensure that the right weighting is given to these important factors.

We are very surprised to learn that there is very little evidence of a link between funding and attainment. What evidence there is appears to be unclear. An evidence-based approach to education policy needs to address this gap in the evidence, and we have recommended that the Assembly Government addresses this by commissioning detailed research in this area.

There is also a gap in the statistical evidence base when you try to compare spending on schools in Wales compared with that in other parts of the United Kingdom. As education policies diverge because of devolution, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make meaningful comparisons. Similarly, it is not always clear how Barnett consequential funding is used in Wales.

We recommend that the Government should seek to establish meaningful statistical comparators as an aid to scrutiny, and it should make more information available on education-related Barnett consequentials.

We encountered widespread criticism over the Government's target of making all schools in Wales fit for purpose by 2010, and whether it would be met. We have therefore recommended that the Assembly Government should either require local authorities to spend more on school capital improvements or consider making additional resources available to meet its own target. We have also made other recommendations aimed at improving information and clarity and helping schools to plan ahead effectively.

It is not possible in the time available to cover all aspects of the report, but I understand that the Minister intends to further outline the Cabinet's initial written response to the report in today's debate. I welcome this, and I am very pleased that she has chosen to give an early response.

As I mentioned earlier, I am also delighted that yesterday's Cabinet statement suggested that it has, in broad terms, accepted the direction of travel that the report advocates.

Our report has already started a vigorous debate on how we ensure that our schools are properly and fairly funded, and I hope that Members' contribution today, particularly the Minister's response, will help to shape that debate further into positive action based on our recommendations to help to clear some of the fog that surrounds school funding in Wales.

I thank all those who presented evidence to the committee. I also thank members of the committee for the mature and consensual way in which they approached their task, which resulted in a unanimously agreed report. Finally, I express my thanks, and those of the committee, to the staff of the Assembly's committee and research service for their help in producing the report. I commend the report to the Assembly and to the Minister."

"Mae'n bleser gennyf gyflwyno adroddiad y Pwyllgor ar Ariannu ysgolion ar drefniadau ariannu ysgolion yng Nghymru.

Bydd yr Aelodau yn cofio i'r pwyllgor gael ei sefydlu gan y Cynulliad y llynedd i adolygu'r trefniadau ariannu ysgolion, ac argymell ffordd o wneud y system yn fwy clir ac yn fwy syml.

Gwireddwyd hyn er gwaethaf gwrthwynebiad Llywodraeth y Cynulliad ar y pryd. Felly yr wyf yn falch bod y pwyllgor wedi gallu dod i gytundeb unfrydol ar yr adroddiad hwn a'i argymhellion. Rhoddodd aelodau'r pwyllgor ystyriaethau pleidiol o'r neilltu i gydweithio'n aeddfed, i gytuno ar argymhellion pwysig ac eang eu cwmpas er mwyn helpu i wella'r modd y caiff ysgolion Cymru eu hariannu. Yr wyf yn falch o nodi hefyd, o ddatganiad ysgrifenedig y Gweinidog ddoe, bod Llywodraeth y Cynulliad wedi derbyn yr adroddiad ar y cyfan, a nifer o'i argymhellion allweddol hefyd, mewn egwyddor o leiaf.

Gwna adroddiad y pwyllgor gyfres o argymhellion sy'n anelu at wneud y system ariannu ysgolion yn haws ei deall, yn arbennig ar gyfer y rhai yr effeithir fwyaf arnynt: rhieni, athrawon a llywodraethwyr ysgolion. Yr oedd cylch gwaith y pwyllgor yn eang, ond yr oedd ein trafodaethau yn canolbwyntio ar dri phrif fater: y modd y mae ariannu yma yn cymharu â'n cymdogion, yn arbennig yn Lloegr; y modd y caiff yr arian ei ddosbarthu i ysgolion—a elwir yn aml yn 'loteri cod post'; a pha mor hawdd yw deall sut y caiff ysgolion eu hariannu, a elwir yn 'niwl ariannu'.

Yn gyntaf, a yw ysgolion yng Nghymru yn cael mwy ynteu llai o arian nag ysgolion yn Lloegr? Yr oedd y dystiolaeth a gawsom yn amwys. Mae'n amlwg nad yw ysgolion yng Nghymru, ar y cyfan, yn cael mwy o arian nag ysgolion yn Lloegr. Fodd bynnag, o ran pa un a ydynt yn cael llai yn gyffredinol, mae hynny yn dibynnu ar y ffordd y darllenwch yr ystadegau; gallai hyn fod yn ddadl ddiffrwyth.

Er ei bod yn bwysig deall sut yr ydym yn cymharu â gwledydd eraill, mae'n bwysicach sicrhau bod ariannu ysgolion yng Nghymru yn ddigonol ar gyfer ein hanghenion penodol. Cytunodd y pwyllgor, er bod gwybodaeth am hyn yn bwysig, na ddylai penderfyniadau ar wariant yng Nghymru gael eu llywio gan yr hyn sy'n digwydd mewn gwledydd eraill.

Mae'r modd y caiff arian ei ddosbarthu i ysgolion yng Nghymru yn achosi ychydig mwy o bryder. Mae wedi cael ei ddisgrifio fel 'loteri cod post'. Gallai'r disgrifiad hwnnw fod ychydig yn annheg ar y cynghorau hynny sy'n ceisio gwneud y penderfyniadau gorau ar gyfer eu cymunedau.

Fodd bynnag, y gwir yw bod amrywiaeth eang yn yr arian a gaiff ysgolion ar draws Cymru. Mae rhai cynghorau yn gwario bron £1,000 y flwyddyn yn fwy ar bob disgybl nag eraill. Nid oedd y pwyllgor yn argyhoeddedig o gwbl ei bod yn bosibl cyfiawnhau amrywiaeth o'r fath. Mae'n anodd egluro i athrawon, llywodraethwyr a rhieni pam mae eu hysgol yn cael llawer llai o arian nag ysgol debyg mewn ardal debyg. Yn ein barn ni, rhan fawr o'r rheswm dros hyn yw y caiff fformiwla ariannu llywodraeth leol ei llywio gan arferion gwario hanesyddol yn hytrach na'r arian sydd ei angen ar ysgolion ar hyn o bryd, a'r arian y bydd ei angen arnynt yn y dyfodol.

Y prif faes a drafodwyd gennym o ran y 'niwl ariannu' yw pa mor hawdd yw deall sut y caiff ysgolion eu hariannu.

Treuliodd y pwyllgor gryn amser yn edrych yn fanwl ar y ffordd y caiff ysgolion yng Nghymru eu hariannu gan fanteisio ar dystiolaeth gan ystadegwyr y Llywodraeth ei hun. Er gwaethaf hyn, ein teimlad oedd bod y system yn un gymhleth, a oedd yn anodd ei deall lle yr oedd atebolrwydd yn aneglur.

Os oeddem yn cael anawsterau o'r fath yn ceisio deall y system ariannu bresennol, o ystyried yr amser a'r adnoddau sydd ar gael inni, yna mae'n debyg ei bod yn amhosibl i athrawon, llywodraethwyr a rhieni.

Gwna'r adroddiad 27 o argymhellion penodol. Nid wyf yn bwriadu eu trafod yn fanwl heddiw, ond amlinellaf rai o'r rhai allweddol. Yn gyntaf, ac yn bennaf, yr oedd yn siom canfod bod y fformiwla ar gyfer dosbarthu arian i awdurdodau lleol yn seiliedig ar arferion gwario hanesyddol.

Mewn geiriau eraill, mae'r arian a gaiff ei roi i awdurdodau lleol gan Lywodraeth y Cynulliad at ddibenion addysg yn seiliedig ar yr hyn a arferai'r gwariant fod yn hytrach na'r costau gwirioneddol sy'n gysylltiedig â rhedeg ysgol. Credwn ei bod yn hanfodol bod y trefniadau ariannu cyffredinol ar gyfer ysgolion yn seiliedig ar asesiad gwrthrychol o anghenion presennol ysgolion a'u hanghenion yn y dyfodol. Felly ein hargymhelliad allweddol cyntaf, sef argymhelliad 5:

yw y dylai Llywodraeth y Cynulliad 'adolygu'r elfen addysg yn y fformiwla dosbarthu cyllid llywodraeth leol er mwyn ei seilio ar gost darparu addysg yn awr ac yn y dyfodol yn hytrach nag ar gostau hanesyddol'.

Mae argymhellion allweddol eraill yn adeiladu ar yr ymagwedd hon. Nid oes unrhyw ddealltwriaeth gyffredin ar hyn o bryd o anghenion ariannu sylfaenol ysgolion. Argymhellwn, felly, yn argymhellion 15, 16 ac 17,

'Ochr yn ochr â fformiwla ariannu sy'n edrych at y dyfodol...dylai Llywodraeth y Cynulliad bennu gofynion ariannu sylfaenol ar gyfer pob Ysgol yng Nghymru ac y dylid disgwyl i'r awdurdodau lleol wario hyd at y lefel honno o leiaf'.

Bydd hyn yn rhoi rhyddid i gynghorau benderfynu ar anghenion lleol a bydd gwell tystiolaeth i lywio eu penderfyniadau a byddant yn fwy atebol am eu penderfyniadau os byddant yn dewis ariannu ysgol islaw'r lefel sylfaenol o anghenion. Y rhain, felly, yw ein hargymhellion allweddol: fformiwla ariannu sy'n edrych ymlaen ac ysgolion a gaiff eu hariannu yn unol ag anghenion y cytunwyd arnynt.

Gwnaethom nifer o argymhellion pwysig eraill. Argymhellwyd y dylid cyflwyno cyllideb tair blynedd i ysgolion fel blaenoriaeth. Credwn y caiff yr argymhelliad hwn groeso brwd, gan y bydd yn cynorthwyo ysgolion i gynllunio'n fwy effeithiol a chyda mwy o sicrwydd.

Er y caiff amddifadedd a theneurwydd eu hystyried wrth ddyrannu arian i AALlau, nid ydym yn argyhoeddedig bod y cydbwysedd rhwng y ddau yn gywir nac yn seiliedig ar asesiad gwrthrychol o angen. Argymhellwn y dylid adolygu hyn i sicrhau y rhoddir y pwyslais cywir ar y ffactorau pwysig hyn.

Yr ydym wedi synnu mai ychydig iawn o dystiolaeth sydd bod cysylltiad rhwng ariannu a chyrhaeddiad. Ymddengys bod unrhyw dystiolaeth sydd ar gael yn aneglur. Rhaid i ymagwedd at bolisi addysg sy'n seiliedig ar dystiolaeth fynd i'r afael â'r bwlch hwn yn y dystiolaeth, ac yr ydym wedi argymell bod Llywodraeth y Cynulliad yn mynd i'r afael â hyn drwy gomisiynu ymchwil fanwl i'r maes hwn.

Ceir bwlch hefyd yn y dystiolaeth ystadegol os ceisiwch gymharu gwariant ar ysgolion yng Nghymru â rhannau eraill o'r Deyrnas Unedig. Wrth i bolisïau addysg wahanu oherwydd datganoli, mae'n fwyfwy anodd gwneud cymariaethau ystyrlon. Yn yr un modd, nid yw bob amser yn glir sut y defnyddir arian canlyniadol Barnett yng Nghymru. Argymhellwn fod y Llywodraeth yn ceisio pennu cymariaethau ystadegol ystyrlon i gynorthwyo'r broses graffu, ac y dylai sicrhau bod mwy o wybodaeth ar gael am ganlyniadau Barnett sy'n berthnasol i addysg.

Daethom ar draws beirniadaeth fawr o darged y Llywodraeth i wneud pob ysgol yn addas at y diben erbyn 2010, a pha un a gâi ei gyflawni. Felly yr ydym wedi argymell y dylai Llywodraeth y Cynulliad naill ai ei gwneud yn ofynnol i awdurdodau lleol wario mwy ar welliannau cyfalaf i ysgolion neu ystyried sicrhau bod adnoddau ychwanegol ar gael i gyrraedd ei tharged ei hun.

Yr ydym wedi gwneud argymhellion eraill hefyd sy'n ymwneud â gwella gwybodaeth ac eglurder a helpu ysgolion i gynllunio ymlaen llaw yn effeithiol.

Nid yw'n bosibl o fewn yr amser sydd ar gael i gyflwyno pob agwedd ar yr adroddiad, ond deallaf ei bod yn fwriad gan y Gweinidog ymhelaethu ar ymateb ysgrifenedig cyntaf y Cabinet i'r adroddiad yn ystod y ddadl heddiw.

Croesawaf hyn, ac yr wyf yn falch iawn ei bod wedi dewis rhoi ymateb buan. Fel y soniais yn gynharach, yr wyf hefyd yn falch bod datganiad y Cabinet ddoe yn awgrymu ei fod, ar y cyfan, wedi derbyn y cyfeiriad a gaiff ei argymell gan yr adroddiad. Mae ein hadroddiad eisoes wedi ysgogi dadl fywiog ar y ffordd y gallwn sicrhau y caiff ein hysgolion eu hariannu'n briodol ac yn deg, a'r gobaith yw y bydd cyfraniad yr Aelodau heddiw, yn arbennig ymateb y Gweinidog, yn helpu i lywio'r ddadl honno ymhellach a'i throi'n gamau gweithredu cadarnhaol a fydd yn seiliedig ar ein hargymhellion i helpu i chwalu peth o'r niwl ynglyn ag ariannu ysgolion yng Nghymru.

Diolchaf i bawb a gyflwynodd dystiolaeth i'r pwyllgor. Diolchaf hefyd i aelodau'r pwyllgor am y ffordd aeddfed a chydsyniol yr aethant ati i drafod y gwaith, a arweiniodd at adroddiad cytûn. Yn olaf, hoffwn ddiolch ar fy rhan i ac ar ran y pwyllgor, i staff gwasanaeth pwyllgor ac ymchwil y Cynulliad am eu cymorth wrth gynhyrchu'r adroddiad. Cyflwynaf yr adroddiad i'r Cynulliad ac i'r Gweinidog."

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