By publishing for the first time details of how much money schools spend on a range of items including supply teachers and back office costs the Government says it is empowering parents to make decisions about where their children should be educated.
While the information is of great interest, it is difficult to see how parents will be able to discover much more than they thought they already knew from the mountain of information covering every school in England.
Broadly, schools in the poorest areas spend far more per pupil than those in more comfortable middle class areas. However, the extra financial investment is not reflected in better academic achievement. Across the country, the worst performing 10 per cent of secondary schools received about £6,500 per pupil, while the top performing 10 per cent got by on £3,000 per pupil.
This is hardly an unexpected outcome, and there are likely to be a great many reasons why schools in the poorest parts of Birmingham require far more funding than schools in, say, the leafier parts of rural Warwickshire.
The data does, however, expose a worrying trend among schools relying more and more on hiring supply teachers, almost always at exorbitant cost to the public purse.
In Birmingham between 2008 and 2010, schools spent a total of £15 million on supply teachers – a sum significantly above the national average. At Harborne Hill School, soon to become an academy, the bill for supply teachers hit £592 per pupil, against a national average spend of £87 per pupil.
Birmingham City Council’s education scrutiny committee must as a matter of urgency look in detail at why schools are bringing in vast numbers of teachers from agencies and the impact this is likely to have on children.