West Sussex MPs ‘encouraged’ by meeting to discuss education funding

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A party of West Sussex MPs felt “encouraged” after meeting with the government’s education secretary to discuss the “unfair” funding received by the county.

Led by Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames, the group discussed the matter with Nicky Morgan and Sam Gyimah, minister for education and childcare, at the House of Commons on September 9.

It is obviously unfair that a school in one part of the country can receive over 50 per cent more funding than an identical school in another area

Sir Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex

The delegation consisted of Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs), Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Jeremy Quin (Horsham), Tim Loughton (East Worthing & Shoreham) and Henry Smith (Crawley). They were joined by Jeremy Hunt, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, and Nick Gibb, schools minister and MP for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton.

The issue of education funding has been an ongoing concern in West Sussex, which receives the lowest amount for schools of any county and is the fourth lowest funded local authority nationally. Almost every headteacher in the county put their name to a letter earlier this year, warning a funding “crisis” was looming.

The MPs urged Mrs Morgan to redress the “manifest unfairness” in the way schools were funded, and adjust the grant – if necessary over a period of time – to redress the balance.

Explaining where the “unfairness” lay, the group pointed out the 10 best funded areas received an average £6,297 per pupil per year, while the 10 worst, including West Sussex, received an average £4,208.

They warned rising costs would put increasing pressure on school budgets over the next few years.

Following the meeting, a statement released by Mr Herbert said Mrs Morgan had been “sympathetic to the concerns raised and recognised that West Sussex was unfairly funded”.

He added: “The current situation is totally unjustifiable. Of course funding should reflect local need, but why should a pupil in West Sussex be allocated so much less funding than those in equivalent areas of the country?”

Mr Quin said: “It is encouraging that the Secretary of State clearly understands the difficulties our headteachers are facing. We will continue to push hard for a fairer deal for our schools.”

The pledge to continue pushing for a fairer deal was shared by Mr Hunt, who said: “It is vital that the current outdated funding system is addressed in order to stop our schools being disadvantaged financially.”

Mr Smith said the unified front presented by the county’s MPs would have made more of an impression on Mrs Morgan than one voice speaking out. Describing the meeting as “encouraging and positive”, he added: “In the context of Crawley, I made the case there was pressure on school places and areas of depravation where more financial support was needed.”

Sir Nicholas said: “It is obviously unfair that a school in one part of the country can receive over 50 per cent more funding than an identical school in another area.

“West Sussex MPs have raised this issue for some time and we are immensely encouraged that the education secretary clearly understands the problem and is committed to doing something about it.”

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