West Sussex MPs "encouraged" after schools funding meeting with Education
West Sussex MPs have said they are "encouraged" that West Sussex schools will receive fairer funding in future after meeting the Education Secretary last week.
The MPs took their concerns about the unfairness of schools funding in the county directly to Nicky Morgan on Wednesday (9 September).
A delegation led by Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames met the Education Secretary and the Education and Childcare Minister, Sam Gyimah, who is responsible for school funding, at the House of Commons.
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert, Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley, Horsham MP Jeremy Quin, East Worthing & Shoreham MP Tim Loughton and Crawley MP Henry Smith were present.
They were joined by West Sussex County Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Cllr Jeremy Hunt, who has also raised concerns about the issue.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister and MP for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton, was also present.
The delegation pointed out that West Sussex receives the lowest funding for schools of any county and is the fourth lowest funded local authority nationally.
The gap between the best and worst funded areas grew under the previous (Labour) government. The ten best funded areas receive an average of £6,297 per pupil per year, compared with an average of £4,208 in the ten worst funded areas, including West Sussex.
While the current Government has protected the national schools budget in cash terms, rising costs will put increasing pressure on local school budgets over the next few years, and West Sussex schools will be least able to absorb the extra costs.
Local head teachers have raised their concerns about the situation with West Sussex MPs, warning that the impact would be reductions in levels of staffing.
The delegation urged the Education Secretary to redress the "manifest unfairness" in the way schools were funded, and adjust grant - if necessary over a period of time - to redress the balance.
Nicky Morgan said that she was sympathetic to the concerns raised and recognised that West Sussex was unfairly funded. The Government was committed to move to a national funding formula to making schools funding fairer.
Minimum Funding Levels in 2015-16 had been baselined for 2016-17 as an important step towards making funding fairer, although West Sussex received less than £1 million of the £390 million allocated for this.
The Conservative Party's Manifesto for the 2015 election committed to "make schools funding fairer". The Education Secretary said that the Government was currently reviewing the funding formula as part of the Spending Review and would come forward with proposals in due course.
Sir Nicholas Soames, who led the delegation, said: "It is obviously unfair that a school in one part of the country can receive over 50 per cent more funding than an identical school in another area.
"West Sussex MPs have raised this issue for some time and we are immensely encouraged that the Education Secretary clearly understands the problem and is committed to doing something about it.
"We will continue to press the Government to honour its Manifesto pledge to make schools funding fairer so that West Sussex schools are treated properly."
Nick Herbert said: "I was encouraged by this meeting and believe that we will see steps to make schools funding fairer in due course. The current situation is totally unjustifiable. Of course funding should reflect local need, but why should a pupil in West Sussex be allocated so much less funding than those in equivalent areas of the country?"
1. Photograph - Clockwise from left Henry Smith MP, Jeremy Quin MP, Nick Gibb MP, Nick Herbert MP, Sam Gyimah MP, Nicholas Soames MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Jeremy Hunt (Peter Bottomley MP and Tim Loughton MP out of view).