The campaign to prevent discrepancies in education funding-why does Devon receive less?

- Education

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Our schools and colleges could be left with an, “uncertain” future fears educational leaders in the South Hams, as Head Teachers across Devon appeal directly to the Chancellor.

Representatives from Devon and numerous other counties across the country have presented a letter to MP Phillip Hammond calling for him to reinstate the £1.7 billion that will be removed from school budgets during the financial period 2015-20.

In their plea to the Chancellor, the collective Head Teachers explain that despite the £1.3 billion that was added to the school budgets during 2015-20, this was actually part of the £3 billion that was initially removed. Thus, the £1.3 billion was not “extra ‘new money’”, but in fact a reduction of the original cuts from £3 billion to £1.7 billion, explain the representatives.

They spoke out on behalf of over 5,000 schools who have voiced their concerns about the funding crisis that is engulfing schools across the country.

Matthew Shanks, the Executive Principal National Leader for Education South West delivered the letter to the Chancellor alongside Head Teachers from Essex, Sussex, Cornwall and Brighton.

The letter presented on Tuesday, November 14, specifically addresses the discrepancy in school budgets across the country which is leaving Devon significantly underfunded in comparison to more fortunate counties.

It reads: “Under the new formula and using the Department for Education’s own statistic, in 2018-19 the average funded primary school in Devon (400 pupils) will receive £407,200 less than the same size school in Greenwich.”

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that, even after the introduction of the new National Funding Formula, in real terms, the overall budget for school funding will have been slashed by 4.6% (£1.7 billion) during 2015-2020.”

Further dissatisfaction is expressed because of the irregular funding resulting in some secondary schools in England receiving, “60% less funding” in comparison to other establishments of the same size.

“The impact of class size, curriculum offer and staffing is obvious. Notionally, a class receiving over £4 million more than another could, for example, afford 133 more teachers at a salary cost of £30,000.

“Headteachers, students and their parents do not understand why every child has to sit the same Key Stage assessments or GCSEs while levels of capacity, resources and support are entirely different depending on where they live and where they go to school.”

For the represented counties there is one solution: “more money is needed”.

In the appeal they have recognised that, “there is not an endless supply of money but children and families deserve a fair deal and they are not receiving that at present.”

If £1.7billion were returned to the budget during the next two years, they believe the following issues could be avoided in low funded schools.

These problems could include: class sizes rising above 35, schools stripping away all but the basic curricular provision, extra-curricular activities receding to skeleton provision, further sixth form closures, vulnerable students not receiving comprehensive support and desperate requests for parents to make voluntary donations.

Mr Shanks who represented the Devon Association of Primary and Secondary Heads last week has confirmed that both these groups are in, “support” of the call for further funding.

“Last year schools across Devon released or made redundant over 90 teaching assistants and 50 teachers,” said Mr Shanks.

“Option choices were reduced at GCSE as schools reduced information technology spending by over a million pounds. Additionally, schools across Devon cut a number of enrichment courses and support with transport.”

All primary and secondary schools across Devon are in the Devon Association of Primary and Secondary Heads.

These feelings have been echoed across the South Hams with the Principals from numerous secondary schools expressing their support for the letter.

Rob Haring, the CEO of West Academy of which Ivybridge is the founding member and former Principal of Ivybridge Community College is on DASH executive.

Tina Graham has said that: “Dartmouth Academy fully supports the action taken by the Devon Association of Secondary Heads on behalf of all secondary schools in Devon. Funding for all children in all schools should be equitable.”

Similarly, Principal of KCC, Kenny Duncan has recognised the loop holes in the pledges to education funding that the government has made. He has explained how the government has stated that it is putting extra cash into schools, however this is after £3 billion worth of cuts had already been made.

Now the government has pledged an additional £1.3 billion into the school budgets, but still leaving a £1.7billion, “shortfall” in education funding, Mr Duncan explains.

“All schools have been working hard to find savings wherever possible and this has been ongoing for the past couple of years (since the cuts were announced) with Primary and Secondary Head Teachers being forced to make difficult decisions to ensure that they balance their budgets and avoid going into a deficit.

“Students at Kingsbridge Community College receive an excellent level of education and this is reflected in the excellent examination results achieved by them each year. Our staff work very had to ensure that the College provides everyone with a rich and varied experience which includes fabulous learning opportunities and many extra-curricular activities.

“As Principal I work closely with my staff and our Education South West Trust finance team to ensure that we use our funding wisely and we have had to make cuts to our provision over time to keep within budget.

“I am concerned that we are no longer able to make further savings without this having a more direct impact upon the quality of the educational provision here at the College.

Mr Duncan is concerned about the College’s position for the next academic year, describing it as, “uncertain” with no clear response from the Government regarding funding levels.

“Without some assurances from the Chancellor in the Autumn budget on Wednesday that will protect real terms funding to all schools, and this being followed up by an increase in funding to schools specifically for 2018-19, I cannot see how KCC or any Devon school will avoid having to make further cuts and reductions.”

Alan Salt, the Principal from King Edward VI Community College has echoed these thoughts, expressing his “dismay” at the real terms cuts in education.

“The Head Teachers in the area stand completely shoulder to shoulder” on this issue due to the county wide cuts that are taking place explains Mr Salt.

“It is very difficult to do our jobs as teachers and hard to offer the support that young people need. Head teachers are having to make these decisions all the time which are directly related to funding cuts that have already happened.

“All these cuts have impacted the curriculum choices available to students and the funding for teachers and teaching assistants that was available.”

However, Mr Salt expressed his gratitude towards the “supporting community” in Totnes who have helped support KEVICs through these difficult times and he has confirmed that MP Sarah Wollastan is aware of these issues.

The cuts and reductions will not only effect the South Ham’s secondary schools, but also the Primary Schools across the area.

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