On Wednesday (January 27), Councillor Louise Goldsmith voiced her support for the Worth Less? campaign which has called on the government for a fairer deal for the county.
West Sussex currently receives £41million less than the national average to fund education – an issue headteachers said had left their school budgets at breaking point.
Pressure from schools, parents and MPs prompted the government to review the funding system, with a new one due to come into effect in 2017.
The short-term cash-flow problem remained, though, and every headteacher in the county signed their name to the campaign, which also called for interim cash to ease the burden on schools before the new system begins.
Councillor Goldsmith backed the campaign’s call for an extra £20million for the county – the equivalent of £200 per pupil.
Mrs Goldsmith said fairer funding was vital to ensure local children got the best start in life and to help close the skills gap which she said was “holding back the West Sussex economy”.
To date, the government has offered West Sussex just £930,000 in transitional funding – the equivalent of less than £10 per pupil – prompting campaigners to ask why their pupils’ education was only worth the price of a cinema ticket.
Mrs Goldsmith said: “West Sussex MPs have made a strong case for the county’s schoolchildren and the government has accepted the current national funding system is unfair and ordered a review.
“We look forward to seeing the details of the consultation.
“However it cannot be right that, while that review process is continuing, our children continue to be so significantly short changed.”
If West Sussex received the national average funding, the extra £41million would be the equivalent of 1,518 more teachers.
John Gadd, headteacher at Thomas A Becket Juniors, said just half of that sum – an extra £200 per pupil – would enable his school to employ an additional five teachers, 12 learning assistants, or buy an extra 300 laptops.
Mrs Goldsmith urged the Department for Education to support schools with a “fair short-term solution while a long-term solution is sought”.
She added: “Business leaders tell us all the time that they would love to recruit home-grown talent but with a skills gap opening up in West Sussex, they have to look further afield.
“Fair funding would ensure West Sussex schools could play a full part in helping us to close that skills gap and ensure our children can take up the high skilled jobs our economy needs.”
Campaign spokesman, Jules White, welcomed the support shown by the county council and added: “The dedication of West Sussex teachers and the hard work of the county’s pupils should not be an excuse for the government not to do what is right.
“The government needs local economies to continue to grow but chronic under-investment in West Sussex’s future will harm not just our children’s life chances but the wider national economy too.”
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