Tuesday, 12 June 2012

School Funding Under The Spotlight As Petition Goes To Westminster

Representatives from Cambridgeshire schools met Schools Minister Nick Gibb yesterday (June 11) to present him with a petition calling for fairer funding for Cambridgeshire's schools.

Over 15,000 parents and staff signed the petition calling for a fairer way of allocating funding to Cambridgeshire's schools.

It was delivered by Chair of the Cambridgeshire Schools Forum Philip Hodgson and Vice-Chair Alan Rodger, accompanied by North East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay. Mr Barclay will now present the petition to the House of Commons and receive an official response.

The petition states that:

  • The current system for funding schools is unfair - flat cash settlements and the impacts of inflation are pushing many Cambridgeshire schools towards a tipping point which is now impacting on standards
  • The current reforms do nothing to address the unfairness, and indeed probably reduce schools' flexibility to direct money to those most in need
  • Cambridgeshire has been moderately successful in educating its children with a very low funding level. Now there is evidence that standards are either falling or not increasing at the rate of similar authorities at all Key Stages. The gap between the outcomes for minorities and the remainder of the cohort is widening rapidly
  • Whilst the Pupil Premium is welcome, it is not sufficient for the weakest students.  What they need most is intensive 1:1 support for an extended period, which is expensive but also very effective in closing the achievement gap and giving them a chance in life
  • If a moderately sized secondary school in Cambridge were moved 20 miles to the west it would receive about £400,000 more per year.  This additional money could be used to dramatically increase the school's provision for students who arrive without key skills, such as reading, that are significantly weaker than their peers
  • If a moderately sized primary school in Cambridge were moved 20 miles to the west it would receive about £100,000 more per year. This additional funding would help to support all under-attaining children through such programmes as 1:1 from an early age
  • The present inadequate funding significantly reduces the ability to provide a rich and creative primary curriculum with exciting activities. This wide variety of experiences is necessary to motivate all children to enjoy and engage in learning throughout their education.

Philip Hodgson said: "We were grateful to the Schools Minister for his time. We urged him to act now to begin to address the unfairness, which Cambridgeshire children are currently suffering. Nick Gibb was impressed with the number of signatures we had gathered and was keen to understand how money is spent within schools with different funding levels.

"We recognise that with no additional money there will be losers. Cambridgeshire has considerable experience in operating with low budgets and we offered to help the DfE explain how to deliver good quality education for less.

"We will be maintaining the pressure on Government and will continue to provide evidence for our case for fairer funding for Cambridgeshire's schools."

Stephen Barclay added: "Whilst the Government is not in a financial position to increase school budgets sufficiently to address the funding imbalance during the next two years, as additional funding is being targeted at the pupil premium for the poorest students, it is important that we make our case early to shape the next Funding Formula.

"Yesterday's meeting built on my earlier meeting with the Schools Minister as one of seven MPs invited to discuss this issue with him, and other earlier campaigns."