While the new system promises more cash for schools in West and East Sussex, heads have warned it will be nowhere near enough to counter the pressure of rising costs.
The Department for Education laid out details of the National Funding Formula (NFF) yesterday (December 14). It was designed to see the government's education budget divided more fairly. But, with no extra money being introduced into the over all system – and schools being told to find £3billion of “efficiency savings” - the changes brought no Christmas cheer to headteachers in West Sussex.
The lack of extra cash to help them make ends meet before the NFF comes into effect in April 2018 was an additional blow.
More than a year ago, every headteacher in West Sussex signed up to the WorthLess? campaign for fairer funding. Having seen their reserves whittled away by years of under-funding, they made it abundantly clear to MPs that they needed money NOW and could not afford to wait for the new system to come into play.
Without the extra help, heads warned they would have to increase class sizes and might not be able to afford to keep their schools open full-time.
It seems those warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
In a letter to Crawley MP Henry Smith, Michael Ferry, head of St Wilfrid's School, said the future looked “bleak”.
The NFF figures estimated his school would receive an extra £108,000 in the first year and potentially an extra £280,000 once the system was fully implemented.
Mr Ferry said: “By my calculations, this increase would still not bring us up to a national average pupil unit and is £100,000 short of the current estimates regarding increased costs over this time period!”
Those increased costs were detailed in a report from the National Audit Office earlier this week. The office, which independently scrutinises public spending for Parliament, said an increase in pupil numbers coupled with cost pressures, such as pay rises and higher contributions to national insurance and pension schemes, meant schools would be 8 per cent worse despite the new formula.
Mr Ferry added: “Excuse my pessimism but it feels like the 'fairer funding formula' isn’t fair at all and, unless the government seriously invests in education - in real terms, not as a paper exercise - then the children of Crawley will continue lose out both now and in the longer term.”
The National Union of Teachers called on the government to put more money into the education system and said: “Funding cannot be ‘fair’ if it is not sufficient.”
Education Secretary Justine Greening said the new system would mean “an end to historical unfairness and underfunding for certain schools”.
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