Tighter controls should be imposed on how Fife headteachers spend millions of pounds amid claims some are not trained to cope with massive new budgets.
Schools across Scotland have been receiving a share of £120 million in Pupil Equity Funding since April, aimed at children most affected by the poverty-related attainment gap.
The funding, which totals around £9.8 million in Fife, has been distributed based on the number of pupils in P1 to S3 who are eligible and registered for free school meals.
Headteachers can use the cash for additional staffing or resources but sources have raised questions over how the money is being spent.
One whistleblower, who did not wish to be named, contacted The Courier claiming headteachers have been spending the cash on what they called “ludicrous” items and believes greater scrutiny should be applied.
The source said: “One school is spending the cash on a new depute head, and another seems to be spending it on iPads, TVs and laptops for the management team there.
“Others I’ve heard about have been spending it on ludicrous things.
“The money is based on the number of kids who get free school meals and it should benefit them but the government rules state that as long as they justify it the headteacher can spend it as they see fit.
“To my mind, these justifications are ropey at best. The kids won’t see a penny of that cash. It’s scandalous giving money straight to a headteacher because they will always make sure they are sorted first.”
In response to the whistleblower’s claims, Shelagh McLean, head of service, said all schools in Fife have been issued with clear guidance by both the Scottish Government and Fife Council in relation to how the funding can be spent.
“Through the education service all schools have been asked to prepare plans for spend that will be closely monitored by officers to ensure best value and impact for learners,” she added.
“The Scottish Government Guidance clearly states that funding must provide targeted support for children and young people affected by poverty to achieve their full potential.
“Although the Pupil Equity Funding is allocated on the basis of free school meal eligibility, headteachers can use their professional judgement to bring additional children in to the targeted interventions.
“In planning for spend, schools were required to identify specific areas of focus in relation to barriers to learning met by their pupils within their context, as such each school’s plan is specific to them.”
While not unhappy with the current arrangements, David Farmer, from the Fife EIS teaching union, suggested some sort of stronger scrutiny mechanism could be beneficial.
“What we would like is for each school to set up a committee within the school with trade union representation to discuss how this money is spent and to have some sort of oversight of how it’s spent,” he explained.
“It’s maybe not practical for all schools to have that but if you are talking about a big secondary school with an allocation of more than £100,000, and in one case more than £300,000, you surely want to have some kind of system in place to monitor how that spending is going?
“There’s also a training issue as well as, and I don’t mean any disrespect by this, but headteachers may not be properly trained to disperse a budget of over £100,000.”