Additional School Funding Not Enough – Headteacher Asks Parents to Lobby MP

Following the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement about school funding on 14 September 2017 which included additional funding of £1.3 billion over 2 years, Catharine Darnton, Headteacher at Gillotts School along with other schools in 17 counties has sent out a letter saying, “this additional funding does not, however, make up for the £3 billion overall reduction that was already announced and planned for 2015-20” and is calling for parents to lobby their MP.

Gillotts School is not the only school to be affected in Henley, the independent Schools Cut website states the cuts by 2020 is valued at £154.9K for Gillotts, £21.2K for Valley Road, £61.5K for Trinity and £64.7K for Badgemore, a small loss for Sacred Heart and £636K for Henley College.

The letter goes on to say, “The Institute of Fiscal Studies states that during 2015-20 school budgets will have been cut in real terms by 4.6%.   This means that there is simply not enough money in the system.  As a result, the Department for Education is unable to implement a new funding formula that meaningfully addresses the two principal aims of their new policy.  These are, firstly, to fund all schools adequately and secondly, to ensure that schools with the same socio-economic/school based characteristics in one area of the country will be funded the same as another in a different part of the country. “

Attached to the letter was a fact sheet with information provided by the Department of Education and the Independent Institute of Fiscal Studies which showed the difference (based on a 1400 pupil secondary school) between Oxfordshire and Reading of £222,600 for 2018/2019 which with around 700 pupils would mean a difference of over £100K!

The new funding formula is dependent on a series of limits (capping) to either how much a school can gain or potentially lose from the formula.  The caps are largely arbitrary and mean that any new per pupil funding is often based on the previously discredited formula.

Catharine said, “Schools such as ours know how challenging and difficult it is when budgets are reduced and squeezed to the limit.  The problem is, however, that in order to fund these protections, the Government is limiting what many other low funded schools will gain under the new formula.  Crucially, these differences will not last for a year or two, they will last for years and years.   Far from being resolved, your child’s education will still be at the behest of a post code funding lottery.  Some schools with the same socio-economic characteristics will be able to afford teacher/pupil class sizes of 20, whilst others will have to make do with 35.”

“It is not about all schools receiving identical amounts of money, but it is about the fair application of a formula right across the country.   We recognise that there has been some improvement to our budgets and that as a country we must live within our means.  We cannot, however, suggest the new formula is, in any way, satisfactory.”

Henley MP, John Howell responded by saying, “Residents of Henley will know that I have been campaigning for schools funding for some considerable time.  They will have seen amongst other things that I took a petition to Parliament on the new funding formula.  They will have seen too that I raised my concerns with the Secretary of State for Education and that I went with a local head to explain the situation to the Minister of Education.  All of this was reported and is in the public domain. So I am always happy to wade in on a subject dear to my heart.

However, we all really need a bit more than what the letter we have now currently tells us if we are to go forward.  To be frank. it is not clear from the letter that this is more than a general complaint at underfunding of schools.  If it is not, it would have been helpful to have explained how much money Gillotts is asking for. Anyway, it would have also been helpful to know where that money is to come from since this is not just a one off increase.  After all, the head of Gillotts School herself is quoted as saying that the money we have already made available “is obviously very welcome and it’s a huge relief that we aren’t facing an actual loss of money.” I understand that the campaign goes on and I shall continue to do what I can to support its aims.”

Catharine replied to John’s comments by saying, “I am surprised that John is not clear what we at Gillotts need as I have corresponded with him repeatedly with him on this issue:

Firstly

We need per pupil funding to be increased each year so it keeps up with costs.  I cannot tell you how much that will cost as it depends on inflation, the pay rises decided by the Government, and other increase imposed on schools (eg national insurance, pension contributions and new initiatives such as the apprenticeship levy).  The current proposal is that we get 1.8% increase in 2018-19 and 0% in 2019-20.  It is quite clear that, with inflation running at 2.9% and the pressure to raise the 1% public sector pay cap, this represents in a real terms cut in both years.

Secondly

We need a funding formula with high enough values for the basic per pupil funding so that a school without any pupils with additional educational needs has enough money to run.  The F40 group of Local Authorities has, at the request of MP, calculated the values required as:

Primary: £3002
Secondary KS3: £4142
Secondary KS4: £5070.

The Government’s national funding formula has:

Primary: £2,747
Secondary KS3: £3,863
Secondary KS4: £4,386

You can write to John Howell MP via his website at www.johnhowellmp.com/

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