Tuesday, 26 September 2017

I'll keep pressure on over school funding, says MP

JOHN HOWELL says “quiet pressure” is the best way to resolve the issue of funding for schools.

The Henley MP has raised his concerns about the Government’s proposed new funding formula with Education Secretary Justine Greening and education minister Nick Gibb.

Under the formula, almost all the primary schools in South Oxfordshire would receive up to three per cent less money and Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common would be the only secondary to benefit.

Mr Howell met Mr Gibb along with Reading West MP Alok Sharma, Newbury MP Richard Benyon and representatives of local schools.

He said: “I raised the point that while Oxfordshire as a whole had an overall increase under the national schools funding formula, I was extremely disappointed to see that all but a handful of the schools in the constituency were net losers.

“This may not be by much — we are talking of less than one per cent on average — but the amounts involved are crucial to our small, rural schools.

“We need to look at the way the weighting has been given to deprivation in the overall funding calculation.

“I fully accept that as an F40 county — the 40 lowest-funded authorities in the country — it is unacceptable for schools to be coming out worse off as a result of the proposed formula.

“We explored the amount per pupil that a school needed to keep itself afloat. The MPs agreed to keep this issue live before the minister as he assesses the response to the consultation.

“I believe we are seeing movement on this issue and quiet pressure is likely to be the best way forward.”

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 receive vastly different amounts.

The Government says this is unfair and outdated and has proposed a national formula that would reduce the variations between areas.

However, many headteachers have criticised the plans, saying their budgets will be cut as a result.

Gillotts School in Henley has said that under the new formula its income would be cut by 1.1 per cent, about £40,000.

Last month the secondary revealed it is to launch a fund to which parents can donate to offset budget cuts.

The school, which is an academy, says it has been asked by several parents if they can contribute.

David Gorsuch, who is chairman of governors, said: “We have to make hard choices because we have seen our real-terms income fall and I think that has been widely discussed, so the additional funding for things that we simply won’t be able to pay for otherwise seems like an excellent idea, especially if people are able to provide it.”

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