National Funding Formula – Headteachers’ response
As you are aware, we have been campaigning for improved funding for our schools for a sustained period of time.
In September 2017 the government announced its new National Funding Formula. The result of this is that most mainstream schools will see a very small increase in their budgets for the 2018/19 financial year. West Sussex Secondary and Primary schools will benefit from this increase, but it will not be enough to reverse the year on year decline in funding, and many WS schools will still have to make further cuts, albeit smaller than expected.
But what the National Funding Formula has not done, is to address the funding differences between schools in different Local Authorities, so WS schools are still significantly underfunded compared to almost all other parts of the country. As an example, a WS Secondary school of 1200 pupils will still receive, on average, between just over £2M and just less than £4M less than schools in the greater London area. That is very roughly between 25% and 50% of their current budget.
However, your interest is in Special School funding, and in WS, the situation for your child’s education is of even greater concern.
Firstly, the National Funding Formula does not apply to Special schools, so WS Special Schools will not be receiving any increase in funding. However like all schools, we are facing cost rises that have to be paid for, so once again we will have to make further significant cuts. Like WS mainstream schools, we too are amongst the lowest funded in the country. The table below shows the eye watering inequalities between your childs school in West Sussex and those in better funded areas:
|National median income
||London median income
|Funding for each pupil
|£30,389 per pupil
|Cash difference with WS per pupil funding
|Percentage difference to WS funding
|Funding for a Special School with 200 pupils
|Cash difference with WS funding
These are all Government figures, provided by the Department for Education. They show that an average large Special School in West Sussex with, say, 200 pupils (perhaps in Worthing, Burgess Hill, Chichester or Crawley) receives nearly £800,000 less than a school in, say, Reading, and over £2,000,000 less than a school in outer London. And on top of that, we are still having to make cuts every year of up to £70,000 just to make ends meet.
This cannot continue.
The Government have said that additional money is being given to Local Authorities specifically to fund SEND. That is true, but most Local Authorities, WS included, are not able to pass any of that extra funding on to Special Schools because they have other SEND cash shortfalls, partially caused by DfE cuts in other areas. In addition, the desperate situation in WS mainstream schools is creating pressure on Special Schools who are having to create extra spaces for pupils who could be placed successfully in mainstream schools if they were adequately funded.
Headteachers have looked in detail at the Department for Education’s own funding information and statistics and have concluded that the new arrangements fall well short of what was promised.
For over two years, WS Headteachers have run a relentlessly reasonable campaign requesting a fair deal for the children in our schools. We have absolutely no desire to see schools in other parts of the country suffer a reduction in their own funding, but we cannot accept that the children that we educate are treated so unfairly.
At times, our resources, and those of the Local Authority, are so stretched that we worry about carrying out the most basic duty – that of maintaining the best possible welfare provision – to the levels to that all schools should be able to. Headteachers in other low funded areas of England, are all stating the same facts.
Some schools are even resorting to asking for parental contributions to supplement their beleaguered budgets, and some schools are having to send pupils home through a lack of staffing. This is entirely unacceptable.
We are delighted that a cross party group of councillors from West Sussex are continuing to support our campaign so clearly. On 4 January 2018, councillors of all political affiliations used the West Sussex County Times to state publically that the proposed new formula is “not fit for purpose”.
In November, representative Headteachers from 5000 schools across 25 counties, including Special Schools, petitioned the Chancellor directly. The response was both superficial and inadequate. We now need every parent to step up alongside their child’s school and insist that matters must improve.
As a first action, we need our local MPs to raise their voices publically and unequivocally once again to confirm that the new funding formula proposed by the government is simply not fit for purpose. We have already received an initial statement from them (excluding Nick Gibb MP as he is the school’s minister) which says: “We recognise the pressures and that there is further to go to improve funding for our schools. This issue remains a high priority for us and we will continue to stand up strongly for our local schools, including through representations to the new Education Secretary and the Chancellor.”
Our collective work – and in particular, the sustained intervention of local MPs – was important in ensuring that some improvements were made to original proposals for the new formula. We now need to have this work finished fairly and adequately, and in particular Special School funding must be recognised as a priority area for improvement. Maintaining the status quo is just not acceptable.
I can assure you that both myself and my staff are working tirelessly to ensure that your child is safe at school and is receiving a high quality education, but we cannot continue to make cuts year on year, from such a low starting point, without there being an impact.
All pupils have the right to adequate levels of funding and support so that their dreams and aspirations can be fulfilled. All schools are judged by the same Ofsted criteria, regardless of funding arrangements. It is vital to our country’s future wellbeing and prosperity that every child is given a proper opportunity to succeed. Please help us in our reasonable request for a better deal for WS children.
Headteacher and on behalf of all schools in West Sussex