Inequalities in the education funding system have seen West Sussex floundering near the bottom of the cash pile, with the lack of money leaving schools unable to hire specialist teachers or buy basic equip-
ment such as books and pens.
Following concerted efforts from every primary, secondary and special school head in the county – all of whom signed their names to the Worth Less? campaign for fairer funding – the government provided an additional £930,000 interim payment to help them make ends meet, before a new system is introduced in 2017.
Spread between every school in the county, the money amounted to less than £10 per pupil – or the cost of a cinema ticket – and left head teachers asking why West Sussex children were judged to be worth so little.
In a letter to parents, a campaign spokesman said: “Bearing in mind that our children are funded 10 per cent less than the national average, this is simply not good enough and children’s education across West Sussex will suffer as a result.”
The head teachers are campaigning for £200 per pupil – a total of £20million – from April until the new funding system is in place.
While that may seem like a high figure, it would still leave West Sussex receiving £200 per pupil less than the national average.
The average funding per school currently stands at £4,612 per pupil – but West Sussex receives only £4,198 per pupil.
If the county was funded at the average, it would receive an extra £41million per year – a figure which left head teachers dreaming about what their schools could have done with the money.
In London, where teachers are paid more, the average figure per pupil is well in excess of £6,000 – which would a difference which would have meant an extra £212million per year to West Sussex.
John Gadd, head of Thomas A Becket Juniors, in Glebeside Avenue, Tarring, said an additional £200 per pupil would enable him to hire an additional five teachers, 12 learning assistants, or buy an extra 300 laptops.
Regarding the £930,000 interim payment offered by the government, he said the figure was “woefully short” of what was required.
He added: “The government budget for pupils in West Sussex has reduced year-on-year in comparison with other counties and local authorities, with head teachers and governing bodies working wonders to try and maintain the levels of education and care that our children deserve.”
Thanking Tim Loughton, Sir Sir Peter Bottomley and their fellow West Sussex MPs for helping to make the government aware of the funding problem, Mr Gadd called for more to be done.
He said: “We hope that the government will see an increased interim payment as an investment in the education of West Sussex children rather than simply as a cost.”
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