MPs reaffirm support for low-funded schools

Crawley MP Henry Smith
Crawley MP Henry Smith

MPs have reaffirmed their support for low-funded West Sussex schools which are struggling to make ends meet.

Last year, every headteacher in the county signed their name to the Worth Less? campaign for fairer funding, asking why West Sussex students were deemed by the government to be worth less money than their peers in other counties.

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Since then, they have warned they may have to take drastic measures such as increasing class sizes, reducing school hours and narrowing the curriculum because they simply cannot afford to meet their costs.

The county’s MPs have now released a joint statement, issued by Crawley MP Henry Smith, explaining how they have taken the Worth Less? fight to the halls of power.

The statement said: “The Conservative government recognises that West Sussex is one of the areas that does not receive fair funding for its schools, and its manifesto last year gave a commitment to introduce a National Funding Formula to ensure fair funding in the future.

“The West Sussex Conservative MPs have lobbied hard for this particular change, which the previous government failed to make despite strong efforts, and we are proud that it is to be finally delivered.

“This is a major and fundamental reform which will affect our schools across the country and it is thus proper and wise that the government should consult very carefully about the new formula, which is due to be introduced in the 2018-2019 academic year.”

The formula had been due to be introduced a year earlier before it was postponed by Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening.

As a result, headteachers found themselves facing another year with rising costs and too little money.

They have pleaded for an interim payment of £20million, to be divided among the county’s school, to plug the funding gap until the formula is introduced.

The MPs’ statement added: “We fully recognise that there are pressures on West Sussex school budgets in the meantime, and we have been very actively lobbying Ministers over the need for interim funding to help.

“Immediately after the General Election, Mid Sussex MP, Sir Nicholas Soames, asked the then Secretary of State for Education on the floor of the House if he may lead a delegation to meet with her to press the case for West Sussex.

“The West Sussex MPs subsequently met with the Secretary of State and the Childcare Minister in September 2015.

“In May 2016 the West Sussex MPs received a delegation of head teachers from West Sussex at the House of Commons to listen to their concerns.

“At her very first appearance in the House of Commons as Education Secretary on the 21st July 2016, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP was urged by Horsham MP, Jeremy Quin, to consider transitional funding for all West Sussex schools.

“We have subsequently arranged a meeting with the Minister for Schools on the 18th October and also with the Secretary of State on the 2nd November in order that we may further press our concerns and those of our constituents.

“The West Sussex Members of Parliament are seeking a Parliamentary debate on this issue when the House returns and they will continue to push hard for transitional funding and for the successful introduction of the new national formula which will, not before time, make a real difference to our schools.”

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