Heads warn of ‘potentially catastrophic’ funding crisis

Education
Education

Headteachers have issued a letter warning of a “crisis” in education funding unless secondary schools are given their fair share of Government grants.

Heads from every secondary school in Crawley – except Hazelwick – signed their name to the open letter, sent to the Crawley Observer, warning the problem was “potentially catastrophic” as they were being forced to slash costs over the next two years.

West Sussex is the fourth-worst funded area in England due to an “outdated” grant system, which will mean cost-cutting can only be done by reducing staffing and increasing class sizes.

The letter, signed by heads from 42 schools county wide, said parents would be “staggered” their children were “not being treated fairly”.

Some schools are already struggling to be competitive and recruit in subjects such as Maths and IT.

Peter Woodman, chairman of the West Sussex secondary headteachers’ association, said: “It’s about fairness and it’s about a lack of equality.”

Mr Woodman said the heads had asked their MPs for meetings so politicians could “realise the looming educational funding crisis in West Sussex” and ensure the long-term future of children in the area “was not compromised”.

The letter stated: “We believe an outdated grant system is to blame which has not been tackled by a succession of governments. The end result is that the children of West Sussex are not being treated fairly.

“This means that most secondary schools in West Sussex must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.

“And as the schools receive significantly less money than similar institutions in other parts of the country they are finding it harder and harder to be competitive and recruit, especially in subjects such as Maths, IT and the sciences.”

It continued: “The problem becomes potentially catastrophic over the next two years as additional costs are passed to schools with no increases in budget.

“A school of 1,000 students will be expected to reduce costs by around £250,000 over the next two years.

“When our schools are funded so poorly this can only be done by reducing staffing and so increasing class sizes.”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “We are aware of this funding issue and are working with headteachers and MPs to bring this to the attention of central Government.

“The cabinet member for education and skills has written to the Government to push for a national funding formula and will be seeking a ministerial meeting on the matter.

“This is an important issue as our school numbers are increasing.”

Insisting funding levels did not make West Sussex one of the worst performing authorities, he added: “Our results are at national average although we obviously aspire to be a high performing county and have a clear strategic commitment to this.

“We will work in partnership with schools to help them understand the complexities of the funding regime.”

A Department for Education report from July 2014 called Fairer Schools Funding stated there was “widespread recognition that the current schools funding system is unfair and out of date” and that “for the first time in a decade, funding is allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools rather than simply their historic levels of spending”.

But West Sussex schools are set to receive £4,206 per pupil on average for 2015/16, some £2,000 less than the average given to the top 10 funded areas.

Only Wokingham in Berkshire, Poole in Dorset, and South Gloucestershire are set to receive less.

The figures are based on analysis of an Institute for Fiscal Studies report carried out by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the ASCL, said: “It is imperative that the Government elected in May addresses this issue quickly and ensures that education funding is sufficient, sustainable and equitable.”

See page 31 for the headteachers’ letter.