Fair funding for local schools

Over the past 20 years, the quality of education in London has been transformed.  Almost all of the schools in Dulwich and West Norwood are good or outstanding.  As a parent of primary aged children in a local school I see every week how our local teachers and support staff deliver a brilliant education in an area where there are high levels of deprivation, high numbers of children with English as an Additional Language and special educational needs. 

The government is putting our excellent local schools at risk, with a change in the funding formula which will see money taken away from our local schools to give to schools in other parts of the country.  I am campaigning along with local parents and teachers and Lambeth and Southwark Labour councillors against this change. I’ve spoken about it in the House of Commons, and you can watch my speech here, and I’ve written to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening – the text of my letter is below. 

Please make your voice heard against these damaging cuts.  You can respond to the government’s consultation before 22 March 2017 (search for  ‘schools funding consultation’ for the online link), or write to the Secretary of State and copy me in.  Together, we must fight these damaging cuts.

Dear Secretary of State, 

Schools Funding Formula

I am writing to you in relation to the current government consultation on changes to the schools funding formula and the damaging consequences that the proposal, if it is implemented, will have on schools in my constituency.

I support the objective to deliver fair and transparent funding for all schools.  Every child deserves and needs an excellent education and every school should have access to the same level of resources.  However, there is nothing fair about taking vital funds away from good schools in deprived areas to redistribute elsewhere in the country.  Under the government’s proposals, and allowing also for inflation over the course of this Parliament, every school in my constituency loses significant funding, ranging from approximately £550 to over £1,200 per pupil.  These cuts equate to significant numbers of teaching and support staff, as well as cuts in the materials, books, IT resources, extra-curricular activities and quality of school food.

I have written to every head teacher in my constituency to ask them what the impact of the new schools funding formula will be on their day to day operations.   They are clear that the impact of recent changes in government policy around pension contributions, employers’ national insurance, the national minimum wage and the apprenticeship levy, all of which are additional unfunded costs, are already having an impact on their budgets.  Head teachers in my constituency are reporting being unable to afford to replace teaching assistants and teachers who have left, struggling to afford classroom materials and not having the funds to undertake repairs and redecoration works.  They are also clear that, coming on top of these additional, unfunded costs, the cuts which would result from the schools funding formula would make the situation even more precarious.  Such large cuts would have to fall on staffing budgets, and my local schools would have to lose teachers and support staff in order to balance their books.

As a fellow London MP, you will be aware of the transformation that has taken place in London schools over the past 20 years.  This was achieved by investment in school buildings and facilities, investment in staff and in particular the growth in support staff, and strong leadership on quality and standards in our schools. I am fiercely proud of the schools in my constituency, almost all of which are good or outstanding, and the work that they do to deliver an excellent education for all our children, in a context where there are high numbers of children with English as Additional Language, high levels of deprivation and high numbers of children with special educational needs.  They are able to do this currently because they have the resources to support those children who need additional help.   Head teachers in my constituency are clear that cuts of the magnitude proposed by the new schools funding formula would put this progress at risk.

In the 2015 manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to protect per pupil funding in real terms.  The National Audit Office has confirmed that this pledge has now been broken.  Over the past week, I have attended meetings in my constituency attended by more than 500 local parents and teachers, and hundreds more have written to me - the strength of feeling on this matter is clear. 

I am writing on their behalf, and on behalf of every child in my constituency to ask you to protect the funding for London schools, to increase the current level of funding to allow for inflation, and to ensure that any changes to the schools funding formula result in no schools losing out.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours ever, 

Helen Hayes MP