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West Sussex Schools Funding Crisis

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West Sussex schools are 149th out of 151 local authorities in funding terms, and the situation is dire. By Marion Smith, Head Teacher, Storrington First School

Following publication of the second part of the National Funding Formula (NFF) consultation, school leaders across West Sussex are saddened by the fact that for many schools the financial situation does not look like it is improving either in the short or longer terms.

Key headlines are as follows:

  • As yet, no interim funding has been offered to West Sussex schools for the year 2017/18.
  • The NFF will begin in April 2018. The new proposals allocate funding with greater fairness and transparency as all schools across England are funded via the same methodology.
  • These new arrangements are, however, being severely undermined by:
  • The ongoing introduction of unfunded costs being placed upon schools, such as increasing employer National Insurance and pension contributions as well as Educational Service Grant costs. These “stealth taxes” lie outside of the NFF.
  • Schools not receiving adequate “core funding” to meet basic staffing and equipment costs.
  • The government’s decision to make £3 billion of “efficiency saving” from school budgets.
  • Using data from West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and the Department for Education’s (DFE) own database, under current NFF proposals the following will occur:
  • In 2018 West Sussex schools will, on average, gain a further £79 per pupil rising to £144 in April 2020.
  • After the introduction of NFF (2018), unfunded cost burdens will, however, mean that such gains are offset to the point where the vast majority of schools in West Sussex will be no better off (or even worse off) than the current dire financial situation.
  • In terms of funding received, West Sussex schools will remain 148th out of 151 Local Authorities.

Headteachers in all West Sussex schools are dismayed that the financial situation looks so bleak. As a consequence, fears about reduced staffing levels, increased class sizes and reductions in curricular and pastoral provision are likely to become a reality in either the short term, medium term or both.

School Leaders are united in their belief that the current situation is both unfair and unsustainable. Previously we were made to feel that pupils in West Sussex were “Worth Less”, under the new arrangements they simply don’t appear to be “Worth Enough”.
Our first step is to raise important questions with ministers from the Department for Education and our own local MPs. We are happy to share these questions with you and would urge you to raise similar concerns with your local representatives.*
We will continue to do everything in our power to maintain standards of care and provision but also feel that it is important to let everyone you know just how bad matters are at present. The support of the community as we continue with our campaign will be vital.

Editor’s note.

The new NFF arrangements can be found in a document prepared by West Sussex Headteachers entitled “National Funding Formula – response to consultation (part 2) – January 2017” which is available in the news section of our website. The document states that three significant issues are undermining the new funding system:

  • There is less money in the system – The National Audit Office states that £3 billion is being withdrawn via ‘efficiency savings’ from school funding.
  • Rising student numbers- this means that funding per student is going down.
  • Rising cost pressures on schools including staffing costs
  • Inadequately funded schools are, therefore, being forced to:
  • Increase teacher pupil ratios to unacceptably high levels
  • Consider modification of school hours
  • Request parental contributions to fund basic equipment and services
  • Reduce curriculum provision to minimum levels

A list of the questions which you could put to our MP are included in a sample letter here

 

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January 2017

 

MP Name
House of Commons
London
SW1A 1AA

 

Dear

West Sussex Schools – Worth Less? Worth Enough?

I am contacting you with regard to school funding from April 2017 onwards.

You are aware, of course, that our school budgets are under extreme strain at present. As a result schools are having to reduce staffing levels, increase class sizes and make cuts to a range of curricular and pastoral provision.
Sadly, the proposals made under the new National Funding Formula do not provide a meaningful remedy to the problems outlined above and in previous correspondence to you. Whilst the formula itself provides greater transparency and fairness for schools across the country, other significant factors, particularly those connected to core funding levels and the introduction of huge unfunded cost burdens (stealth taxes on schools), have undermined the whole process.
I recognise that along with other local representatives, you have lobbied the DfE both on emergency funds required for 2017/18 and the importance of a new national formula.

The fact remains, however, that no school in West Sussex has been offered any additional support for the financial year 2017/18. Even when the DfE’s own statistical projections are used, the majority of West Sussex schools are likely to find themselves in a “standstill” or worse financial position over the next 3 – 4 years.

I must emphasise again that the financial outlook for our schools is extremely bleak and I feel obliged to pose the following questions:

• Why is the DfE failing to provide emergency funding to West Sussex schools in 2017/18?
• Where has the £500million earmarked for wholesale academisation gone?
• What has happened to the government’s commitment to protect per pupil funding in the lifetime of this parliament? (Please see National Audit Office Report Dec 2016)
• Is it acceptable that even after the introduction of the National Funding Formula West Sussex schools (as a whole) will still be the 148th worse funded Local Authority in England? (This is mainly due to the 3% cap of school funding changes proposed under NFF)
• Where should school leaders make the cuts and savings required to balance their budgets – staffing reductions, further increased class sizes, withdrawal of counselling and pastoral services, modified school hours, reduction in books, IT and equipment?
• In light of the chronic funding shortages noted in this letter, do you support other costly DfE initiatives such as the introduction of grammar schools or the opening of Free Schools where there is no “basic need”?

Yours Sincerely

 

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You can find your MP address details here:

http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

 

This article first appeared in the February 2017 issue of Sussex Local magazine, Stiorrington edition

Do you have an opinion on school funding? Please email us at info@sussexlocal.net

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