Eight Headteachers from across West Sussex met Schools minister Mr Nick Gibb in the Palace of Westminster today. Local MPs, Mr Andrew Tyrie, Mr Tim Loughton, Sir Peter Bottomley, Mr Nick Herbert and Mr Jeremy Quin also attended.
Heads pressed Mr Gibb for a ‘yes or no’ answer to our 18 month-old request for £20m emergency funding. This is desperately needed to help hard pressed schools until the NFF is introduced in April 2018. Mr Gibb said that budgets were set for 2017-18 but refused to answer the question directly. I and the other Heads found this most frustrating. “It seems that schools in West Sussex will again have to cut staffing and increase class sizes to make ends meet,” said Mr Jules White, Head of Tanbridge House School. “We are at breaking point.”
We found the discussions about the National Funding Formula (NFF) proposals were more productive. The minister accepted that, whatever the details of the formula itself, ‘core’ funding must be set at a level that allows all schools to function adequately.
We presented our case that the government’s unfunded charges (pensions, salaries, apprenticeship levy) are decimating school budgets. We pointed out that the National Audit Office recently calculated that the impact of these unfunded costs would amount to an 8% cut to school budgets. It also made clear that overall school spending will be reduced by £3bn by 2020.
Against this background Headteachers continued to press that funding that has been made available for other projects (like the mass academisation plan) be used instead to fund schools adequately on the basics such as teachers and pastoral care.
We were scheduled to meet Mr Gibb for 45 minutes. In the event, the meeting lasted 1½ hours. This was encouraging, but we shall continue to press for action that brings adequate funding for our schools.
A camera crew from BBC’s The One Show accompanied the Heads to Westminster. Their report will be broadcast on tonight’s programme, which starts at 7.00pm on BBC1.