Cambridgeshire named as worst funded education authority in England

David Laws MP

David Laws MP

Archant

A MINISTER has pledged that Cambridgeshire will get a fairer school funding settlement by 2015 after the county was named as the worst-funded in England.

For 2013-14, Cambridgeshire will receive £3,949.94 per pupil – putting it 151st out of 151 local education authorities for school funding.

Other authorities get an average of £4,549.96 per pupil, with areas like Luton getting £4,784.38 and Peterborough £4,490.03.

Councillor David Harty, the county council’s cabinet member for learning, wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove in November last year pleading for the area to get more funding.

His schools minister David Laws, wrote back to say that he was “committed to introducing a fairer funding system”, adding: “I do understand the frustrations felt by Cambridgeshire and other lower funded authorities.”

Yet despite that, Cambridgeshire fell from its already lowly position right down to the bottom, with Mr Laws saying the changes wouldn’t be in place until 2015.

“2015 is a long, long way away,” said Cllr Harty, who represents Little Paxton and St Neots North. “It is now that our schools could do with some help, particularly the primary schools.

“I can’t understand why it takes it takes two years to get the funding we need.”

Councillor Peter Downes, a former Hinchingbrooke School headteacher and leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on Huntingdonshire District Council, said this year’s drop was “short-term problem”.

The longer term issue, he said, is getting a “fair national funding formula which distributes money according to need”.

The county’s low education budget is a historic budget dating back to “political decisions made by the council in 1980s, when it wanted a low council tax”, he claims.

In his letter to Mr Gove last year, Cllr Harty said changes to the way education authorities allocate the dedicated school grant were “nonsensical” and would leave primaries and secondaries struggling to cope.

In a meeting with Cllr Harty afterwards, Mr Laws admitted: “Introducing a new national funding formula is not straightforward and there are still a number of issues that we need to resolve before a new formula can be introduced.”

However in his written reply to Cllr Harty, he went onto say: “The use of fewer and simpler formula factors means that there will be greater consistency to the way in which schools are funded.

“If we are to move towards a national funding system which distributes money equitably, then we need to be quite radical about the basis on which schools are funded.”

Cllr Harty added: “We’ve been making the case very clear for raising the level of funding for Cambridgeshire.”

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