Tuesday, 24 October 2017

School budgets won't be cut but they remain underfunded

SCHOOLS in the Henley area will no longer lose money due to changes in the way they are funded.

The Government has promised that every school in the country will get an increase in its budget from April. Nationally, the average rise will be 1.7 per cent.

The move follows criticism from headteachers, teacher unions and MPs, including Henley’s John Howell, that proposed changes to the schools funding formula would leave them worse off.

Almost every primary school in the Henley area was expected to receive up to three per cent less while Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common would have been the only local secondary to benefit.

At the moment the formula is calculated by education authorities, such as Oxfordshire County Council, which means similar schools in different parts of the country get vastly different amounts.

The Government said this was unfair and outdated and wanted to standardise the process.

In 2015 Mr Howell led calls for a new formula and presented a petition to Parliament signed by 592 constituents, describing the existing arrangement as “arbitrary and unfair”. When it emerged that the new formula would put South Oxfordshire schools at a disadvantage, he said it was “unacceptable” and protested to Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Before the general election in June, Mr Howell pledged that no local schools would lose money under the new arrangement and all would see an increase if the Conservatives won.

This week, he said: “I, with the help of others, have been campaigning on this issue for some time and am glad that we have had some success.

“The national funding formula will direct resources where they are most needed, helping to ensure that every child can get the high-quality education they deserve wherever they live.

“It will provide that money through a transparent formula, delivering greater predictability, and will replace an unfair, opaque and outdated system that sees different areas receive very different amounts for no justifiable reason. I welcome the increase for schools in the Henley constituency and look forward to discussing this as I visit them over the coming months.”

Catharine Darnton, headteacher of Gillotts School in Henley, said: “This is obviously very welcome and it’s a huge relief that we aren’t facing an actual loss of money.

“But the campaign to ensure adequate funding for schools is far from over. Pay rises are running at between one and two per cent while inflation has just been reported at 2.9 per cent.

“While this will relieve a little bit of pressure for one year, schools have effectively taken a 14 per cent cut since 2010 and unless something else is done it won’t be enough in the long term as we can’t keep up with pay rises and inflation.

“There’s clearly a huge amount of information in the proposal and it’s going to take some time to digest and arrive at a clear view on the formula but it’s quite clear that a 1.8 per cent increase won’t even meet one year’s cost pressures.”

The new formula says every school will receive at least 0.5 per cent more per pupil in 2018-19 and one per cent more the following year. It will also allocate a lump sum of £110,000 to every school.

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