This week the Education Secretary published her response to the School Funding consultation. West Sussex has long faced unfair funding and the Government is addressing this through a national funding formula. The principle is simple, the challenge, especially when we are still bringing spending under control so that debt isn't piled up for future generations, is significant.
Every MP locally has campaigned for a fairer formula and local schools and Heads have been at the forefront of national efforts in numerous meetings with Ministers and officials.
Fair Funding does not mean that every pupil gets identical funding. "Fair Funding" means a transparent formula so that every pupil anywhere in the country with the same characteristics gets the same adjusted for local costs. These "characteristics" are very important. I am not aware of any Headteacher that does not believe that pupils who come from deprived backgrounds, need extra support or speak English as a second language don't require some extra funding to ensure equal opportunity.
Following a transition period our local secondary schools will ultimately receive 8-12 per cent extra and some of our primary schools, especially in Horsham itself, are in a similar position. Every school gains, our rural primary schools gain least but County has won some flexibility over the next two years which I hope will enable extra support to be provided.
I do not for a minute believe that school funding is now "off the agenda", nor should it be. Funding is only half the equation: rising costs is the other. We will continue to fight for our schools and may indeed have to resist efforts to tilt school funding back in favour of those areas that already are well placed. We will also (and I raised this in the Commons in response to the statement) have to continue to ensure that new schools are provided to meet the needs of growing communities.
The uplifts resulting from the promised formula are however a significant improvement and a victory for all of us, including local schools, Heads and parents who have campaigned for greater fairness.
Photo caption: With Southwater Scouts at last week's Scout AGM at the Drill Hall.