Exeter councillors angry over school funding cuts

In the last few weeks there has been news of some major changes to school funding which will have a significant impact on schools in Exeter.  The first of these was the prediction in late December by the National Audit Office that overall schools in England would suffer a real-terms cut of 8% by 2020.

At the same time the government set out its plans for a new National Funding Formula to provide money to schools in a fairer way, intended to end what has been described as a postcode lottery.  Under the present system on an annual basis Devon gets £270 per pupil less than the national average.   Unfortunately, the new scheme when fully operational would increase the amount of money coming to Devon by just 0.38%.  In Exeter the level of funding would actually decrease a little, by 0.14%.

The National Union of Teachers has calculated that as a result of both the above, in Exeter on average each student faces a cut of £420 in annual funding comparing the situation in 2015/16 with that in 2019/20.  Details of the impact on individual schools can be found at http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk/

Labour city councillor Hannah Packham has said, “These cuts are extremely worrying; our children deserve a fully funded education.  We know that local schools will do their best to protect children’s education, and mitigate the impact of the cuts where they can; however, cuts of this scale will inevitably mean increased class sizes, a restriction of curriculum, reduction in resources, and staff losses”.

More recently, Devon County Council decided on 11th January to transfer £2.22 million from Individual Schools Budgets to the Higher Needs budget for children with special education needs to meet a significant deficit in the latter.  This will result in a reduction of £33 per pupil in the core funding that schools receive.  This will undoubtedly make it even more difficult for schools in Exeter to cope.

County councillor Andy Hannan, also Labour, said at the Cabinet meeting that decided to make this transfer that, “What this represents is a failure of central government to properly fund education.  So much hope has been placed in so-called fair funding, especially for counties like Devon which is significantly below the national average.  This government has instead failed to properly fund education on a fair basis and in particular to meet the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, and it has failed Devon schools.

It is alarming that Devon is having to go against its own schools in making this transfer and that the position is unlikely to improve in the future.  Once again a Conservative government underfunds a public service and this county, like others, ends up having to suffer the consequences.

I applaud the letter-writing campaign the council is leading to get MPs to put pressure on the government.  Ultimately, though, local Conservative MPs need to vote against the government to get it to reconsider.  Will they?  I doubt it.”