Heads warn MPs of ‘extremely bleak’ funding problems
Hundreds of head teachers in West Sussex have written to MPs warning that the government’s funding shake-up has failed to tackle “extremely bleak” budget shortfalls.
They have written to all their local MPs asking how they should cut spending – whether they should lay off teaching staff, reduce school hours or close counselling services.
The government last month launched a new funding formula for England’s schools to tackle “unfair” and “inconsistent” funding levels.
But about 300 head teachers, representing almost every state school in the authority, have written to local MPs and to parents to say that the overhaul has not resolved budget shortages.
“The proposals made under the new national funding formula do not provide a meaningful remedy,” the head teachers have told MPs.
‘Giving with one hand…’
The West Sussex head teachers – who have previously taken a petition to Downing Street – have told MPs that “no matter how clearly we state our position or how reasonable our approach is, no improvements are made to either the financial or associated staffing crises”.
They say that the national funding formula is “giving with one hand whilst taking away with two”.
The West Sussex heads, who had complained of long-term underfunding, say they will still be among the worst-funded authorities in England.
The heads have put specific questions to MPs, including asking how their local schools should proceed with cuts.
The options for cuts include “staffing reductions, further increased class sizes, withdrawal of counselling and pastoral services, modified school hours, reduction in books, IT and equipment”.
The heads ask MPs what happened to £500m announced as part of the abandoned plan for compulsory academy status for all schools in England.
They also ask about how during “chronic funding shortages” the Department for Education can afford to expand grammar schools and to open free schools.
Last month, Education Secretary Justine Greening revealed how the National Funding Formula would reallocate school budgets.
It was designed to remove inequalities that saw schools in different parts of the country, with similar intakes, receive different levels of per-pupil budget.
“We need a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode, levelling the playing field,” said Ms Greening.
But head teachers complained that reallocating the budget did not resolve the overall lack of funding, with school budgets not keeping up with rising costs.
An analysis last month from the National Audit Office said state schools in England would have to reduce spending by £3bn by 2019-20.
The Department for Education has said that the core school budget has been protected in real terms – and that funding for schools in 2016-17 is at record levels of over £40bn.
The department has argued that the new funding formula will provide a much fairer basis for allocating funds to schools and will give head teachers more certainty over their future budgets and long-term planning.