MP urges fair funding for West Sussex schools
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has urged the Government to review the funding formula for West Sussex schools, saying that the case for change was “a basic issue of fairness.”
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on School Funding on Thursday (5 November), Mr Herbert pointed out that West Sussex currently receives the lowest funding for schools of any county in England and is the fourth lowest funded local authority. Schools in West Sussex receive an average of just £4,208 per pupil, compared to an average of £6,297 in the ten best funded areas.
The MP acknowledged the £390 million a year of additional funding which the Government had already provided for the the worst funded authorities, but said that “… in West Sussex, that means that we received less than £1 million a year more, whereas the actual gap, if we were funded at the average level of county councils, is something like £15 million.”
Mr Herbert said that although West Sussex might be seen as a leafy and affluent county, there were in fact significant pockets of deprivation. He pointed out that Midhurst Rother College had significantly worse pupil-teacher ratios than urban academies in the same group.
The MP said that, although the national schools budget had been relatively protected by the Government, there were additional spending pressures for such things as national insurance and pension costs. He said: “It will be hard for schools to deal with flat cash if their funding is already on the floor. What heads and chairs of governors from schools in my constituency are saying to me is that they already face a difficult position because of the relatively poor funding.”
Mr Herbert concluded by urging the Minister to “listen to what MPs are saying today” and called for “a realisation of the manifesto commitment with an announcement in the spending review about redressing the unfairness in a timetabled way, so that we can prove that we do believe in fair funding for schools across the country.”
Responding to the debate the Education Minister, Sam Gyimah, said “... the distribution of funding today does not reflect the needs of our children, so it has to be changed. It is widely recognised that the impact of the distribution is hugely unfair ….”
The Minister said that the Government would set out its proposals soon after the spending review on Wednsday 25 November and “consult carefully and widely with local authorities and schools”.
Mr Herbert and other West Sussex MPs met with the Minister and the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, in September to raise the issue of unfair funding in September.
Commenting after the debate, Mr Herbert said that he was pleased that the Government clearly understood the problem of unfair funding and was committed to do something about it. “We will wait to see their proposals after the Spending Review”, he said, “but it is encouraging that the Government is so receptive to our case and that Ministers have restated that they will continue to remedy this unfairness.”
1. To read Nick’s speech in the School Funding debate see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151105/halltext/151105h0001.htm#15110530000407.
2. To read the School Funding debate in full see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151105/halltext/151105h0001.htm#15110530000001.