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MPs demand answers to school funding concerns

NEARLY 100 West Sussex schools will lose funding under a new formula, the county’s MPs have warned.


Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie is among those who have sent a letter to the education secretary, Justine Greening, raising concerns the proposed method for funding schools will not be good enough for many in the area.


Their formal response to the government’s latest consultation about the issue said a third of the schools in West Sussex – or 94 – will lose out if the  intended policy comes into effect.


This is despite the fact the county is currently the worst funded in the country. Two schools will stay the same and 167 will benefit.


But the proposed overall uplift in funding will be just 2.9 per cent, which equals £14.3m or £122 a pupil.


Mr Tyrie said: “West Sussex has been a great disadvantage compared to other areas for many years. This is true, not just for education, but in a number of other aspects of local government funding.


“Under the old funding system, West Sussex was treated particularly badly with respect to schools. Until recently, successive governments have shied away from dealing with this, despite numerous efforts of West Sussex MPs, including me, to bring some fairness into school funding.


“For the longer term, the transparency and greater fairness that will come with the new system should help West Sussex.


“Nonetheless, the next few years are going to be very difficult, given the weakness of the country’s financial situation – the UK is still running a deficit nearly a decade after the financial crash.


“Within that constraint, the government needs to examine what can be done to reconfigure the formula to provide an appropriate minimum funding level for schools in each category.”


As well as Mr Tyrie, the letter was signed by six of the county’s eight MPs. Neither Nick Gibb nor Henry Smith, as schools minister and parliamentary private secretary to Ms Greening, were able to sign it.


The letter is the latest initiative from the MPs. They have made the case for better funding over a lengthy period.


This has included calling parliamentary debates, asking questions in the House of Commons, meeting ministers, meeting headteachers and governors and taking delegations of West Sussex headteachers to meet ministers and officials.


Last week, one of the letter’s signatories, Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) was in a delegation of MPs who met the Prime Minister to ask her to change the planned formula.


The MPs’ letter explains the better funded schools are more able to deal with the changes in the formula.


For example, Tower Hamlets will lose 2.7 per cent but will still be left with £6,718 a pupil – compared to £4,257 in West Sussex. This disparity is on top of the fact school budgets are tight because of the effect of years of under-funding.


“Most schools in West Sussex would approach any further cost increases from a position of having already absorbed significant efficiencies,” they say.


“Despite our request for some form of interim funding for West Sussex, as an authority with among the lowest levels of funding, this was not made available.”


They point out a number of flaws they believe are contained in the funding formula. These include capping the amount of money the current best funded schools can lose, an inaccurate account of local operating costs and a crude use of regional averages.


They want the formula to be redesigned to provide a minimum level of funding in each category to ensure all schools receive the necessary operating costs.


“Despite our concerns about the proposed new formula, we strongly reaffirm our support for fair schools funding and a national formula to redress the historic inequity in schools funding.”

Posted in Council cuts, News.