Headteachers appeal to MPs over school funding formula

WorthLess? campaign
WorthLess? campaign

Headteachers have called on MPs to echo West Sussex County Council and declare the government’s school funding formula “not fit for purpose”.

In a letter due to be sent to parents tomorrow (January 11), heads said the new formula had failed to solve historic inequalities, which saw similar schools funded at different rates, depending on their location.

They also said that, although schools would receive an injection of cash thanks to the new formula, it would be offset by rising costs.

The letter stated: “Despite promises to the contrary, your child’s education is still worth far less than that of many other counties.

“It is acknowledged that factors such as deprivation and English as a second language, mean that schools should be funded differently, but the disparities that will still be in place for the next financial year 2018-19 (and beyond) are impossible to regard as being satisfactory in any way.”

Picking up the WorthLess? campaign for fairer funding following the Christmas break, the heads insisted that, while they needed more money for West Sussex schools, they had “absolutely no desire” to see funding reduced at schools in other parts of the country. But they told parents they “cannot accept that the children that we educate are treated so unfairly”.

As an example, parents were told that, under the new formula, The Weald school would still receive around £2.4m less than a similar school in Greenwich and around £4.2m less than one in Hackney. The letter added: “At times, our resources and that of the local authority are so stretched that we worry about carrying out the most basic duty – that of maintaining the best possible welfare provision – to the levels that all schools should be able to.”

West Sussex County Council has long supported the call for fairer funding and, before Christmas, councillors called on the government to urgently carry out a review of the funding formula.

Councillor Richard Burrett, cabinet member for education and skills, told a meeting of the full council: “It’s clear to us as a cabinet and as a county council that the new funding formula is not fit for purpose and needs to be revised.”

The heads acknowledged the work West Sussex MPs had already done to bring about some improvements to the formula but told parents they now needed the work to be “finished fairly and adequately”.

They added: “As a first action, we need our local MPs to raise their voices publicly and unequivocally once again to confirm that the new funding formula proposed by the government is simply not fit for purpose.

“The fact that we have a new secretary of state merely adds to the sense of urgency.”

In a joint statement, West Sussex MPs Henry Smith (Crawley), Jeremy Quin (Horsham), Gillian Keegan (Chichester), Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex), Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) and Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham), acknowledged the shortfalls of the formula but said it would bring £28m to the county’s schools by 2020, which would go “a considerable way towards making funding fairer”.

They said: “We recognise that there is further to go, and that schools are facing cost pressures, and we are particularly concerned about the funding of primary schools once transitional help has passed, the sustainability of small rural primary schools and the challenges for schools in less well-off urban areas.

“We have been in constant discussions with our local schools and West Sussex County Council about these issues.”

MPs agreed the county’s schools should be funded “on the same basis as those in their peer group” but warned against what they called “crude comparisons”, arguing schools in deprived inner city areas – which are among the highest funded – would “always have additional needs”.

They added: “This issue remains a high priority for West Sussex MPs, and we will continue to stand up strongly for our local schools, including through representations to the new education secretary and the chancellor. However, this is not just about funding.

“We are also very concerned about standards which in too many West Sussex schools have not been good enough, and we want to hear more about how improvements will be made.”

- While it was all change at the Department for Education following Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb kept his post as minister for school standards.

Mr Gibb told his Twitter followers he was “delighted” to continue in the role.

New education secretary told ‘token gestures’ are not enough

Headteachers have appealed to the new secretary of state for education to do more than make “token gestures” when it comes to school funding.

Damian Hinds took over from Justine Greening following the Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle on Monday (January 8) and school leaders have wished him well in his new role.

Michael Ferry, head of St Wilfrid’s School, in Crawley, said: “We need a secretary of state who will not just tip toe around the edges and make token gestures, but actually make changes which will matter and have a long-term effect on the ability of all schools to provide a broad and balanced curriculum to meet the needs of its students.

“He needs to be prepared to upset others in the Cabinet and do what is right, not follow a mantra along this or that educational ideology.”

Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, added: “The issues of teacher supply, adequate funding and opportunity for all young people must be effectively and urgently addressed.

“Sadly, Justine Greening failed to make a real difference in these areas. The view of WorthLess? is that she was unable to persuade the Treasury to improve school funding and ended up tinkering at the edges.

“We need Mr Hinds to stand up publicly for every student and family and demand the sensible levels of funding that they deserve.

“Our future prosperity and overall social mobility depends on it.”