Thursday, 27 June 2013

Downes Gives Cautious Welcome To Promise Of Fairer School Funding

Cllr Peter Downes
Leading Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Peter Downes, who has been campaigning for better funding for the county’s schools for more than 20 years, has given a cautious welcome to the Chancellor’s promise to make the system fairer.

Cllr Downes, Liberal Democrat County Spokesman for Education said George Osborne’s announcement yesterday (Wednesday, June 26) might be good news but he was not pinning all his hopes on it.

“This government's record on school funding has been mixed so far,” he said. “It has kept its promise on the Pupil Premium, which provides extra money for the most disadvantaged pupils, but it has failed to honour its commitment to equal funding for academies and maintained schools.

“It has ring-fenced money for schools but reduced the funding for post-16 courses. It has introduced day care funding for disadvantaged two-year-olds but reduced funding for councils to help vulnerable children.”

Cllr Downes has been actively campaigning for a fair national schools funding formula ever since he was Head of Huntingdon’s Hinchingbrooke School and President of the Secondary Heads Association.

He added: “The Labour government was poised to accept an activity led funding model in 2002 which would have given a much fairer settlement for all the schools in England but it failed to implement this approach because there would have been too many winners and losers. That was in a time of relative affluence. In these days of austerity, I do not foresee them having the courage to adopt a really fair national funding formula”

Cllr Downes, who serves on a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on Education, will continue his efforts to get a fairer distribution of resources.

“Schools are now judged against national criteria - testing, league tables and inspections - but they only get the resources based on decisions made by local councils nearly 30 years ago.

“Unfortunately the Tories in Cambridgeshire prided themselves on spending as little as possible on schools so that is why we are in the difficult position we face today."