Increase in school funding not enough

Carre's Grammar School. EMN-190129-134612001
Carre's Grammar School. EMN-190129-134612001

Education chiefs say Central Government boosts will do little to relieve the pressures on schools as funding remains below the national average - and the principal of two Sleaford schools warns they are already dipping into reserves to maintain the status quo.

Lincolnshire’s schools are set to get £560.080 million from the Government’s Dedicated Schools Grant this year, an increase of 3.4 per cent on last year’s figure of £538.857m.

The county’s chief education officer Heather Sandy said the move to create fairness was ‘welcome’ but said schools still needed more money as the funding still had to be spread across 362 schools across the county.

“What the government must do is recognise these increases have just redistributed the funding that was available, but doesn’t look at the increasing pressures – for example teachers pay awards, increasing pension contributions and building running costs,” she said.

“All of those services are increasing in costs so if this funding formula is genuinely going to be fair and transparent it must increase over time to recognise those pressures and ensure we don’t have to take the funding from front-line figures.”

The increase will see primary schools in Lincolnshire receiving an average of £3,913.59 per pupil, while secondary schools will get £5,069.

Nationally Lincolnshire will still sit among the bottom third of the country’s poorest-funded schools, although staff were working hard to ensure pupils do not suffer.

High needs funding, pupil premiums and free school meals will stay at current levels this year. Parents should also ensure they are signed up to these if eligible.

The Robert Carre Multi-Academy Trust runs Carre’s Grammar and Kesteven and Sleaford High Schools. Its executive Headteacher Nick Law said their funding settlement is ‘nowhere near’ what is needed as the additional capital funding agreed by Goverment will pay to update computer equipment but cannot help towards nationally imposed staff pay rises and pensions. Even the Teachers Pay Grant is not fully funded by Government.

He said: “We have to meet special needs provision, cater for gifted pupils and our outreach programme with primary schools, but that still has to be funded by ourselves.”

Mr Law said his schools are among the one-third of institutions recording budgets in deficit where expenditure outstrips funding. He is doing all he can to maintain courses, even by combining year groups at sixth form and reducing teaching hours, although in a positive move, business studies will be returning to the High School for GCSE.

Mr Law said: “We are working hard on budget recovery, such as not always replacing staff that leave during a year and we are dipping into our reserves, which will dwindle over time unless the funding issue is addressed.

“You don’t want to end up with massive class sizes under inexperienced teachers, which creates uncertainty.”

Lincolnshire Learning Partnership, on behalf of the county’s schools is writing to put pressure on the Government, while schools are urging parents to write to MPs.