Education still falling foul of ‘postcode lottery funding’, say heads

Education

Parents have been warned their children’s education will still be subject to a “postcode funding lottery” despite the £1.3bn pumped into education by the government.

Headteachers from 17 counties have written to 2.5million homes telling parents the new National Funding Formula was “not enough to make a real difference”.

The letter, signed by headteachers from Cornwall to West Sussex to Norfolk, said: “Far from being resolved, your child’s education will still be at the behest of a postcode funding lottery. Some schools with the same socio-economic characteristics will be able to afford teacher/pupil class sizes of 20, whilst others will have to make do with 35.

“Some children will have three teaching assistants in their class, whilst others from similar backgrounds in a different part of the country will have none.

“At the end of the day though, all pupils will take exactly the same Key Stage 2 tests and go on to take the same maths and English GCSEs.

“Their futures are simply not being fairly catered for.

“By the same token, similar schools with entirely different budgets will be made accountable via identical league tables and Ofsted inspections. How can this be fair or reasonable?”

By way of example, a primary school of 400 pupils in West Sussex will receive average per pupil funding of £3,677 in 2018/19 – a total of £1,470,800.

In East Sussex, a similar school will receive £3,723 per pupil - a total of £1,489,200.

In Reading the figures will be £3,998 per pupil – a total of £1,575,200 – while one in Greenwich will receive £4,898 per pupil – a total of £1,959,200.

In Hackney, the figures will be £5,887 per pupil, a total of £2,354,800 – £884,000 more than the West Sussex school.

At secondary level, a West Sussex school of 1,400 students will receive £4,756 average per pupil funding in 2018/19 – a total of £6,658,400. In East Sussex the figures will be £4,941 per pupil - a total of £6,917,400.

A similar school in Reading will receive £5,106 per pupil – a total of £7,148,400 – while one in Greenwich will receive £6,451 per pupil – a total of £9,031,400.

In Hackney, the figures will be £7,840 per pupil, a total of £10,976,000 – £4,317,600 more than the West Sussex school.

Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School and the driving force behind the Worth Less? campaign, said: “It’s not that London shouldn’t receive this money but our children should have the same advantages too.

“The formula was meant to ensure that schools in similar socio-economic areas receive similar levels of funding.

“They palpably will not under this new arrangement.”

The headteachers praised the Government for being the first in a generation to attempt to improve the way schools were funded.

Their letter stated: “We recognise that there has been some improvement to our budgets and that as a country we must live within our means.

“We cannot, however, suggest the new formula is, in any way, satisfactory. The finances of very low-funded schools are still insufficient to provide the service that your child deserves.”

One major issue with the new formula highlighted by headteachers and others was the fact it did not take into account rising costs.

With costs such as pensions and National Insurance contributions increasing, the heads said “differently funded schools will have different abilities to soak them up”, adding: “All school budgets will be under severe pressure, but some will be under much greater strain than others.”

They called on the Chancellor Philip Hammond to “do better” to support education in his March 2018 Budget, extending that plea for help to all who walk the halls of power.

The heads said: “MPs and education ministers must continue to bang the drum until every child’s education is fully and fairly funded.”

Writing in the County Times on September 21, Horsham MP Jeremy Quin said: “I do not for a minute believe that school funding is now ‘off the agenda’, nor should it be. Funding is only half the equation: rising costs is the other.

“We will continue to fight for our schools and may indeed have to resist efforts to tilt school funding back in favour of those areas that already are well placed.

We will also - and I raised this in the Commons in response to the statement - have to continue to ensure that new schools are provided to meet the needs of growing communities.

“The uplifts resulting from the promised formula are however a significant improvement and a victory for all of us, including local schools, heads and parents who have campaigned for greater fairness.”

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