Calls made for Government to re-think proposed funding changes for schools in Cambridgeshire

PUBLISHED: 08:01 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:11 21 February 2017

Shire Hall, in Cambridge.

Shire Hall, in Cambridge.

Archant

Campaigners and councillors in Cambridgeshire are calling for the government to re-think its proposed changes to education funding, which could see many of the county’s schools lose out.

Cambridgeshire County Council wants the government to revise its funding formula to better reflect the rural character of the county and to help small schools, many of which could suffer in the proposed new deal.

Although 149 schools will see their funding increase, the county council says all schools will be worse off in real terms over the next four years when costs such as National Insurance contributions, pension increases and the apprenticeship levy are taken into account.

In Huntingdonshire, county council figures show that 49 schools could see an increase in funding and 18 schools could see their funding cut, with three schools unaffected.

Councillor Peter Downes, who represents Kimbolton and Brampton on the county council and is a former head teacher, said the formula being proposed by the government representing a better deal than existing funding arrangements but does not take into account local concerns, which could leave some schools under-funded and, ultimately, unviable.

He said: “From 2019 the government is proposing to send a lump sum of money directly to schools but our argument is that this doesn’t take account of local factors.

“You can’t expect a government to come up with a national formula that suits all schools because it will work for some but not others.

“What we don’t want is for people to say ‘abandon the formula’ because, imperfect though it is, it is still better than what we had before. We must talk about how it could be changed and improved and not simply throw the baby out with the bath water.”

According to the county council, about 75 schools will see cuts in their funding, which follows years of low funding in Cambridgeshire, relative to other counties. Small schools in less deprived parts of the county will be hardest hit. The School’s Forum, a body of Cambridgeshire head teachers and councillors and officers from the county council, says it would be unable to redress this imbalance as local decision-making will be reduced under the government’s plan.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Joan Whitehead, chairman of the children and young people committee, said: “Our concern is that this level of funding will not meet the basic costs of running a school. We want government to revise their formula to understand the actual costs of education in a county like Cambridgeshire.

“We also want government to increase the amount of funding available to all schools. The current proposals just redistribute, with a minor increase for Cambridgeshire to support transition, what is already there, which we know is not enough.”

A Department for Education spokesperson added: “The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17. But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. We are going to end the historic post code lottery in school funding and under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost. Significant protections have also been built into the formula so that no school will face a reduction of more than more than 1.5 per cent per pupil per year or three per cent per pupil overall.

“Overall funding for schools in Cambridgeshire would get a total uplift in funding of tow per cent, just under £6.3m if the proposed new funding formula was implemented. But we recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so‎ they get the best possible value.

“We are consulting on the factors that will make up the formula and we know that it is important that we get this right so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact. The consultation will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.”

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