Almost half of East Sussex schools could see their funding cut by Government changes to the national formula.
Although the full impact is not yet known, based on estimates 43 per cent of the county’s schools would be ‘worse off’, according to East Sussex County Council.
Overall funding for schools is set to increase by 2.7 per cent but county council officers suggested the new national funding formula favoured larger schools.
Keith Glazier, leader of the county council, is due to write to East Sussex MPs expressing ‘significant concern’ at school funding changes, as well as the potential impact of both the apprenticeship levy and business rate increases could have on schools.
The county council’s cabinet agreed to start work on a response to a Government consultation on school funding at a meeting on Tuesday (March 7).
But Godfrey Daniel (Lab, Hastings – Braybrooke and Castle) said, “The draft letter I think it’s a bit limp. Maybe it’s designed to be a bit limp.”
He suggested East Sussex Tory MPs would probably be supporting £320m in the Budget for free schools and selective education.
Cllr Daniel added, “We have to sharpen that letter again and really fight to actually protect our schools be they large, small, urban or rural. They deserve our support because the children are our future.”
However Bob Standley (Con, Wadhurst), also leader of Wealden District Council, thought the draft letter was ‘very strong’.
He also argued it was ‘quite ludicrous’ that small schools would have to pay the apprenticeship levy.
Cllr Keith Glazier (Con, Rye and Eastern Rother) said he ‘did not recognise being limp in writing letters’ but was not above looking at it again.
Alan Shuttleworth (LDem, Eastbourne – Langney) described the changes as the ‘biggest threat to schools for many a year’ with a ‘large black hole’ in the amount of funding needed.
He added, “The unintended consequence of this would be to put enormous pressure on small schools within this authority.”
Meanwhile Roy Galley (Con, Buxted and Maresfield) urged individual schools to make separate responses to the consultation, with small schools across East Sussex ‘vital’ to their communities.
He added, “Combining or closing them is just not an option. The distance between the two villages are too great to make any sensible combinations successful.”
Cllr Galley suggested potentially undermining some very good schools went against the Government’s objective to improve educational standards, adding, “The Blob is at it again.”
The Blob is a 1950s film starring Steve McQueen and is the name given to a group sharing similar ideology about the education system.
John Barnes (Con, Rother North West) agreed, expressing his own worries there was a ‘bias’ within the Department for Education in favour of a minimum school size.
Although there would be very little savings from closing schools, Cllr Barnes warned of huge costs to the county council if existing schools had to be expanded.
Francis Whetstone (Con, Forest Row) added, “It’s really very worrying when you think that some schools are just going to be gone and it really is very important that we get these people. Grab them by the neck and get at them.”
Nick Bennett (Con, Alfriston, East Hoathly and Hellingly), lead member for education and inclusion, special educational needs and disability, said the levy attempted to encourage people to enter education but ‘will be self-defeating’.
But he was ‘delighted’ East Sussex school headteachers had joined their counterparts in West Sussex to lobby ministers.
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