EDUCATION chiefs in Devon have renewed their campaign for fair funding for schools with a detailed dossier on the stark funding gap that still exists compared with the South East.
They’ve produced figures for Devon schools detailing how much better off they would be if they were situated in London and these were delivered to Devon MPs by the county’s schools chiefs on a visit to Westminster on Tuesday.
The Government’s new national funding formula will mean an extra £7.5-million for schools in Devon next year but they will still be left £268 per pupil short of the national average.
A West Devon headteacher told the Times this week that the ‘penny pinching’ having to be carried out at her school was the worst she had seen in 13 years in senior leadership.
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Devon’s Cabinet member for schools, James McInnes, head of education and learning and county councillor for Hatherleigh and Chagford, Dawn Stabb, chair of the Devon Association of Primary Heads, Paul Walker and Rob Haring, from Ivybridge on behalf of the Devon Association of Secondary Heads, met the county’s MPs to brief them on the latest figures and how the new formula breaks down.
They are also seeking an early meeting with the new education secretary, Damian Hinds, to keep up the pressure on the Government.
The new figures produced by Devon finance chiefs compare schools in Devon with Hackney and Westminster. They’ve been chosen because Hackney has higher funding and high levels of pupils with additional educational needs and Westminster has higher funding but lower levels of additional needs.
Differentials such as rates and the extra paid to London schools to cover London-weighted salaries have been stripped out.
Even so, primary schools in Hackney still get 19.6% more funding than Devon and primary schools in Westminster get 6% more.
For secondary schools the differential is 31.9% in Hackney and 13.8 per cent in Westminster.
A typical secondary school in Hackney would get £588 per pupil more than a secondary school in North Devon with a similar catchment and deprivation index.
A primary school in Exeter gets £160 per pupil less than a similar primary in Hackney. Both examples exclude London weighting.
Mr McInnes said: ‘We’ve campaigned hard with parents and schools to get fairer funding for Devon’s children.
“This year there’ll be £7.5-million extra for Devon’s schools and more the year after. That’s on top of the extra £16-million a year we achieved in 2015, but this still isn’t enough to bring Devon’s schools up to anywhere near the national average and – once again – our region loses out to the Home Counties so we make no apologies for continuing our campaign for fair funding with the Government.
‘There is no doubt that Devon schools are facing tough times financially.
“They still have to find extra money for pay rises, increased National Insurance contributions and the Apprenticeship Levy, amongst other pressures. And the Government keeps on suggesting schools take on added responsibilities. The latest is more training for children on social media. That’s a good idea but all these extra responsibilities cost money to deliver so the funding per pupil within Devon is failing to keep pace with rising costs.
‘Every year this continues, it becomes increasingly harder for our schools to maintain good standards of education. The Government is increasing our high needs budget for our most vulnerable children by £300,000 in 2018/19, this is welcome but it will in no way compensate for all the extra pressures that we face in caring for our children with special education needs.’
The Devon campaign has been backed by the Devon Education Forum which consists of heads, governors and other education representatives. They said a minimum of £4-million extra was needed for special needs.
They said schools had been very prudent in the past in framing their budgets but there was no spare cash in the system.
Redundancies were having to be made and that affected the quality of education that schools could provide.
Principal of Tavistock College Sarah Jones said she was facing an ‘unprecedented funding crisis’ with ‘children learning in over-crowded classrooms’ and pupils with mental health problems going unsupported.
She said she had been forced into making cuts in support staff ‘badly needed in the school’ in order to protect core teaching posts.
The extra £7.5-million awarded to Devon schools in the Government’s Fair Funding Formula in the autumn went ‘nowhere near far enough’ to meet extra costs being imposed on schools, she said.
‘I have been in senior leadership in schools now for 13 years and I cannot remember a time when we were penny pinching to the extent we are now, and cutting services schools should never have to cut,’ she said.
‘We have had to make redundancies of people I should never have had to make redundant because they are absolutely needed in the school, so I can protect teaching posts in the school.
‘At the moment children are learning in overcrowded classrooms with limited resources at a time when the Government has imposed new examinations and a new curriculum, and they are not funding us adequately to be able to deliver on that.
’I call it the Unfair Funding Formula,’ she said. ‘Schools in the South East were and still are getting more money than schools in Devon.’