schools funding - Education Secretary Justine Greening - pic by Benet CoulberDFID

Council chiefs and headteachers in South Cheshire have given a cautious welcome to latest Government plans for schools funding.

Education Secretary Justine Greening unveiled the latest national funding formula plan this week.

It contains a number of changes to initial proposals which sparked outrage across Cheshire East at the start of the year, and led to public demonstrations in Nantwich and Sandbach, led by then teacher and now Labour MP Laura Smith.

Ms Greening’s latest proposals include:

– increasing the basic amount of funding every pupil will attract.
– a new minimum per pupil funding level.
– from 2019-20 all secondary schools will attract at least £4,800 per pupil, all primary schools will attract at least £3,500 per pupil.
– from 2018-19, all secondary schools will attract at least £4,600 per pupil, and primary schools £3,300, before it rises in 2019-20.
– cash increase for every school – final decisions on distribution taken by local authorities, but will attract at least 0.5% more per pupil in 2018-19, and 1% more in 2019-20. For some this could be as much as 3% more per pupil

It’s part of a £1.3 billion spend increase on schools over the next two years, including more ‘sparsity’ funding for rural schools, and more funding for ‘additional needs’ pupils.

Ms Greening said: “This is an historic reform. It means, for the first time, the resources that the government is investing in our schools will be distributed according to a formula based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country.”

Brine Leas headteacher Andrew Cliffe (pictured, right) gave a cautious welcome to the plans, initially mooted in July, and thanked those who campaigned in early 2017.

fire safe - Andrew Cliffe, headteacher at Brine Leas, interviewed by BBC at school funding cuts protest

Andrew Cliffe

He said: “I am cautiously optimistic about the funding announcement. We will need to see if money announced is not at the expense of something else.

“It leaves schools as they are for 2017 to 18.

“The following year there will be a minimum increase of 0.5% which could be as high as 3%. 2019 to 2020 sees minimum funding of £4,800 per student which is a significant increase for Cheshire East schools if it all pans out.

“We will need to see what happens and remember it’s against the backdrop of rising costs.

“Parental campaigning seems to have been listened to so thanks to everyone who marched, wrote letters or signed petitions.”

Cllr Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “It is important we look at the detail behind the headlines, before we can determine whether fairness for our local schools has been addressed fully.

“It is clear the government has listened to the arguments put forward since the initial announcement a few months ago.

“There are several positive elements to the national fair funding announcement that we welcome, including extra funding over the next two years, the guarantee of minimum funding that each primary and secondary school will receive and the potential for fast gains in per-pupil funding for the very lowest funded schools.

schools funding - Cllr Rachel Bailey, new Cheshire East Conservative Group Leader

Rachel Bailey

“The promised protected funding for additional needs and smaller, rural schools is also welcome, although once again we will need to see how the funding allocations are applied before coming to a full judgement.

“I welcome the government’s announcement as another step towards fairer funding and the removal of significant inequities in the funding allocation system for pupils and schools in Cheshire East.

“Our task now is to check the many figures presented in the latest announcement to see exactly how they apply to our local schools and to determine whether they produce the results and greater fairness we – and our headteachers and local MPs – have called for.

“Our continued commitment is to ensure we protect the outstanding education and skills offer across Cheshire East.

“Our children and young people have a right to at least the same minimum educational offer and opportunities which other similar schools and authorities have.

“We are extremely proud of all our schools and we will do all we can to help them continue to deliver the very high standard of education that has rewarded many of our schools with good or outstanding Ofsted ratings.”

Laura Smith, Crewe and Nantwich Labour MP, added: “I am proud of the work that everybody involved in the Fairer Funding campaign has put in which has led to a change in government policy on the schools funding formula.

“But simply recycling money from other areas of the education department is not good enough, meaning real-terms cuts for schools. And the government is doing nothing to address the £2.7bn schools have lost since 2015. The campaign for fairer school funding goes on.”

Read Justine Greening’s full statement on national funding formula for schools here.

(pic by Benet Coulber/DFID, creative commons licence)

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