Funding for West Sussex schools

In recent days parents with children in West Sussex schools have been receiving a letter from their headteacher drawing attention to funding pressures. 

It’s clearly unfair that West Sussex receives the lowest funding for our schools of any county in England and, incredibly, a full third less per pupil than the best funded areas. 

I'm pleased that the Conservative Government has recognised this inequity by announcing a new National Funding Formula, and they should be credited for committing to this major reform when previous governments have failed to do so.

Regrettably, the heads’ letter did not do this, instead choosing to criticise the Government’s policies on grammar schools and academies. 

The Formula will not be introduced until the 2018-19 school year - unfortunately a year later than originally planned - while the details are worked out.  It is a major change that will affect schools across the country, and not surprisingly time is needed to consult and get the new Formula right. 

It was disappointing, however, that the heads’ letter said that “no clear future date” for the change had been set, implying that the reform has been shelved.  This is not the case. 

The letter also claimed that the Government has not protected schools funding.  This is not true.  Overall the schools budget has been protected in real terms, at a time when government spending still exceeds revenues and many other budgets are still having to be cut. 

Nevertheless, with rising costs our schools in West Sussex are feeling the pressure now and need transitional help before the Formula is introduced.  I’ve been working alongside my fellow West Sussex MPs on this (see here). 

I made the case in Parliament in a debate last year (see here), and we’ve met ministers on a number of occasions to press the issue.  We will continue to raise this matter strongly on behalf of our local schools. 

We have arranged further meetings with the Schools Minister and then with the Education Secretary, and we are also planning another debate in the House of Commons when I will speak again.  I will also be meeting with local headteachers to discuss their concerns. 

West Sussex MPs have been working hard on this issue.  I hope that in future communications headteachers will acknowledge our role both in securing the National Funding Formula and pressing for transitional funding, and that the information they provide about the Government’s policies will be more balanced. 

Nick Herbert