The highest profile way an MP can raise an issue for their constituents is through Prime Minister’s Questions. I had no hesitation last Wednesday in raising school funding with Mrs May. This is part of a long campaign which started, literally, the week I was first elected.
The Government is right to bring forward a fair funding formula: the effective funding going to each child should reflect that child’s needs on the same basis wherever they attend school. I have not met a single headteacher who does not believe that schools need more money if they have a large number of pupils who don’t speak English as a first language or whose progress is held back by a poor educational starting point. To provide equal opportunity and to ensure our country can prosper, fair funding is the right approach.
The success achieved by our local schools and students is rightly praised and I don’t object to schools in more economically deprived areas of the country securing extra funds if that is educationally necessary to give every child a good start in life.
The fundamental issue for us locally is whether our schools will secure appropriate funding to provide an excellent education and the balance between supporting “additional needs” and basic school costs. The context to this is schools’ staffing-related and other costs increasing: given that staff costs often amount to over 80 per cent of school budgets leaving little room to make savings any increase in costs is a significant concern.
I have been through the formula and individual school budgets in depth. Some schools could continue to provide a great education without significant concerns. In others I fully recognise that after years of effective resource management there are real worries about how taut budgets have become.
Co-ordinating with other West Sussex MPs I advocate a minimum guaranteed cash underpinning for every school, regardless of their pupils’ “additional needs”, determined “bottom-up” as to what is needed for schools to succeed. This is both fair and the best way to enhance our local school funding. The Fair Funding Formula is better than at present and would deliver (pre costs) an extra approximately 5 per cent to our local secondary schools but it can certainly be improved.
Photo caption: Meeting pupils from Greenway Academy on their recent visit to the Houses of Parliament.