Fair Funding for West Sussex schools

This week West Sussex MPs wrote to the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, to urge - once again - fair funding for our local schools.

West Sussex receives the lowest funding per pupil of any shire county, and that’s clearly unfair.  The Government has recognised the problem and is proposing a new National Funding Formula.

This would mean an overall uplift of funding in West Sussex of 2.9 per cent – an increase of £14.3 million, or £122 per pupil.  This is progress, but will be insufficient to meet rising costs faced by our schools. 

In fact, a third of the schools in West Sussex will actually lose some funding, despite the County’s starting point as the worst funded in the country, many of them primary schools.

West Sussex MPs have urged changes to the formula to secure a better deal for our pupils.  We recognise that schools in areas of greater deprivation have bigger needs, but the discrepancy in funding is too wide.

For instance, while all schools in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets – the best funded in the country – will lose a little, their funding per pupil will still be £6,718, compared to £4,257 in West Sussex.  So they are far better able to make savings than our schools.

West Sussex MPs have proposed a redesign of the new Formula to provide a minimum level of core funding for schools.

We have made the case for fair funding over an extended period, including calling parliamentary debates, asking parliamentary questions, meeting ministers, head teachers and governors, and taking delegations of West Sussex head teachers to meet ministers and officials.

Last week I met the Prime Minister, on behalf of West Sussex MPs, to raise our concern that the proposed schools funding formula needs to be changed. 

There’s no pot of gold to increase funding.  The national schools budget has in fact been protected, unlike other areas of public spending, and at £40 billion it’s at record levels.  Clearly, however, costs in the last few years have risen faster.

The money allocated for new grammar or free schools is also a red herring, since new school places have to be created anyway, whether they’re selective or not.

So to secure more money for West Sussex schools, those in better funded areas will lose a small amount.  Unsurprisingly, they are objecting to the changes.

But the current situation is unfair - and that's the strong case that West Sussex MPs will continue to make.