MPs appeal for changes to new school funding formula

West Sussex MPs have warned schools will lose hundreds of thousands of pounds if changes to the new education funding formula are not made.

Sir Nicholas Soames MP
Sir Nicholas Soames MP

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs), Andrew Tyrie (Chichester), Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham), Jeremy Quin (Horsham), Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) and Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) have written to education secretary Justine Greening, sharing their views.

While welcoming the idea of the new National Funding Formula, which is due to be introduced in 2018, the MPs told Ms Greening that under said formula, 94 schools in West Sussex – one-third of the total – would lose funding, even before increased costs were taken into account.

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Using Steyning Grammar as an example, they said the school would receive an overall funding increase of £314,000 (4.6 per cent/£205 per pupil) - but in the last two years its costs had increased to £532,600 (£363 per pupil).

Jeremy Quin MP

This would mean losses of £218,600 (£158 per pupil) by the time the new formula was fully implemented in 2019/20, with an even higher loss of £343,600 (£174 per pupil) in the first year.

When it came to The Weald School, in Billingshurst, the MPs said the school would see cost increases of more than £700,000 by 2019/20. In addition, since 2009, pupil numbers had risen from 1,440 to 1,650 with no increase in teacher numbers but a cut in the senior leadership team.

Reminding Ms Greening that West Sussex had long been the fourth lowest local authority in the country and the lowest-funded county, the MPs said they thought areas with "significantly better resourcing" were far better placed to deal with funding pressures than lower-funded authorities.

They added that the difference in funding between West Sussex and many cities - even after the implementation of the National Funding Formula - was "startling".

Nick Herbert MP

In Tower Hamlets, for example, while all its schools would lose funding, they would still receive £6,718 per pupil compared to the £4,257 in West Sussex.

The MPs highlighted three "key problems" with the new funding formula: the "well-intentioned" 3 per cent limit set for any reduction in funding was seen to be "undermining the entire purpose of the reform"; data used to develop the formula gave "an inaccurate account" of how much it cost to operate a school in each authority; and the level of funding assigned to pupils with additional needs was described as "disproportionate" when compared to core funding.

The MPs stressed they did not object to extra resources being assigned to disadvantaged children but felt it was important for schools to have enough money to deliver the necessary curriculum to all pupils, not just those with additional needs.

When it came to the government's ongoing calls for schools to make "efficiency savings", the MPs pointed out that, in West Sussex, this had already been done.

Sir Peter Bottomley MP

Their letter said: "With the new pressure on school budgets there is a strong and justified feeling that the unfair treatment of our schools must now be properly remedied.

"We commend the government for introducing a fair funding policy but urge that the formula is reconfigured to address the issues which we have set out."

Crawley MP Henry Smith, who serves as parliamentary private secretary to Ms Greening, and Bognor/Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb, who is schools minister, did not sign the letter.

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Tim Loughton MP
Andrew Tyrie MP