I was very disappointed to hear that schools in East Sussex have been disproportionately affected by school funding issues.
We have some of the best schools in the country, and yet they are rewarded with further constraints to their budgets, which of course ultimately end up being of detriment to the pupils.
I have met with several headteachers, all of whom have outlined that school budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point, and that the lack of any additional funding, combined with the imposition of additional costs, will further exacerbate these strains.
The National Audit Office has estimated that mainstream schools will need to make a combined total of £3 billion in savings by 2019-2020 in order to counteract the current cost pressures. These pressures, such as increases in employer National Insurance contributions, pension contributions, the National Living Wage and unfunded salary increases have dramatically heightened costs, and yet there has been no significant funding increases to combat these factors.
As well as this, schools have to factor in the recent apprenticeship levy, which will add a further 0.5% increase on costs on those schools required to pay it. This levy will especially affect small, maintained schools. All maintained schools will be obliged to pay the levy, compared to only 47% of Multi Academy Trusts, and subsequently is discriminatory toward smaller schools. A 2014/15 estimate stated that 60.6% of secondary schools ran a budget deficit in that year and these aforementioned cost pressures will catalyse this percentage upwards.
I therefore met the School Standards Minister Nick Gibb MP and raised these concerns with him. Together with Helen Key – headteacher of Chailey School – and Sophie Thomas – headteacher of Newick Primary School – we urged the Minister to revise the fairer funding formula in order to deliver a more balanced funding system for all schools.
I have also consulted the Secretary of State for Education, both in the chamber and in private meetings, in order to secure a fairer funding formula. It is simply unfair that schools already at financial breaking point have to conjure up funds in order to meet the plethora of new costs facing them.
The signals I have received, both from the Minister and Secretary of State, have been encouraging. However, as of yet there has been no confirmation of a revised fairer funding formula. I therefore want to outline that this is my paramount concern at present, and I am absolutely committed toward delivering a fairer funding formula that does not negate our schools and consequently does not affect our children.
Our schools, and our pupils, deserve better than this, and I will not allow our pupils’ development to be hindered by macro-external factors that can so easily be avoided.