Teachers' fury at school budget cuts
9:10am Saturday 10th March 2012 in News
SCHOOLS in some of Swindon’s poorest areas have reacted with shock and anger after having hundreds of thousands of pounds slashed from their budgets.
The cuts will lead to redundancies, adversely affect students and staff and ruin years of progress improving standards, one headteacher said yesterday.
Nova Hreod will be the biggest loser with £338,947 slashed from funding intended to help pupils in the most deprived areas.
Churchfields Academy will lose out by £281,520 and Dorcan Technology College by £166,025.
Funding to Isambard Community School will increase by £238.652, Kingsdown by £227,428 and Commonweal by £197,017.
Churchfields headteacher Steve Flavin yesterday led a vociferous attack on the plans.
He said: “In the simplest terms, these proposals amount to taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich and reminds me of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood.
“I have a simple question and no one as yet can justify it. What can possibly justify removing £281,520 from Churchfields and effectively giving it to another secondary school down the road which doesn’t need it? I have compared the need based on free school meals and the Government’s measure of deprivation and if anything Churchfields should be getting more funding, not less.”
Churchfields’ overall budget for next year is £5.5m, which doesn’t include the £281,520 it stands to lose.
The school has the highest indicator of deprivation in the borough, with more than 40 per cent of students entitled to free school meals.
Additional funding is credited with a dramatic increase in the quality of teaching, outstanding exam results and a positive Ofsted inspection.
But under a new regime planned for September, Government grants will be channeled into an overall fund to be shared between all schools and academies.
The change, affecting the standards fund, ministerial priority and specialist schools grants, is intended to simplify a complicated allocation system.
Cash will be made available to all schools through the dedicated schools grant, based on a formula worked out by pupil numbers.
But critics say Swindon’s Schools Forum, an independent funding body, did not need to drastically vary amounts allocated to individual schools. They also question why there is only one member on the forum representing academies.
Mr Flavin said: “The local authority argue that what they are proposing is a fairer system in order to justify their actions and attract support. This doesn’t wash with me. How can it be fair to remove significant sums of funding from schools such as Churchfields which are serving some of the most needy children in our community and redistribute it to schools which do not have anything like the same characteristics of deprivations and need? It’s wrong.”
The schools standing to lose out warn they face huge deficits, despite some transitional funding being made available for the first year.
Mr Flavin said: “In the case of Churchfields this will inevitably lead to redundancies which will undermine the quality of education we seek to provide and hamper our progress towards becoming an outstanding academy.”
Churchfields still receives the Pupil Premium, aimed at raising students’ educational standards and life chances. But the £100,000 yearly sum will be far outweighed by the cuts.
Nova Hreod headteacher Julie Tridgell also reacted with shock.
She said: “Nova Hreod is devastated by the loss of funding. Every penny is precious in terms of increasing the quality of what you provide for young people.”
The Schools Forum voted on Tuesday to recommend the proposals to Swindon Council, which will ratify any change.
But opposition mounted yesterday, with the Labour group also joining the attack.
Leader Coun Jim Grant said: “I understand that the main purpose behind these funding changes is to simplify the funding system for schools, which I have no problem with.
“However the new system that has been devised has pretty much universally led to schools in the most deprived areas having their budgets cut, while schools in the more affluent areas are having their budgets increased.
“This will likely mean teachers being taken away from the schools in Swindon’s more deprived areas and moving to the schools in wealthier areas.
“To me, this goes against the values of social justice and social mobility. Some have said that increases in the Pupil Premium will mitigate the impact of these funding changes.
“However, I understand that the Pupil Premium wouldn’t fully mitigate the cuts being made to schools in some of Swindon’s more deprived areas and all schools receive the Pupil Premium, albeit different amounts.” The council will provide £600,000 in one-off transitional support funding to minimise the losses of the schools worst affected by the changes.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The budgets for schools are largely based on their pupil numbers although some grants are currently only available to certain schools.
“The coalition Government has, however, put all separate grants into one single pot and asked local authorities to distribute the money to schools based on locally determined needs via a fair funding formula.
“The Schools Forum approved the new local funding formula, following consultation with Headteacher Associations, and the formula is now fairer, simpler and easier to understand.
“As a result, instead of some funding being allocated to certain schools based on historic factors, all funding will be redistributed to all schools according to the number of pupils and their needs.
This approach is in line with the Government’s method of distributing the new Pupil Premium which is allocated to every school based on the needs of their pupils.
“The Schools Forum is committed to the equitable distribution of funding to schools, ensuring that all pupils benefit from the maximum available resources, regardless of the school they attend.”
All schools receive a separate source of funding from central Government, the Pupil Premium, which is designed to provide additional support to pupils eligible for free school meals; with a parent in the armed forces or looked after by the local authority.
The budget allocated to individual schools for 2012 to 2013 amounts to £122.4m - a year on year increase of 3.4 per cent.
The Pupil Premium brings in an additional £3.7m – a year on year increase of 97 per cent.
The Schools Forum advises the local authority on all aspects of school finance. Its membership includes Head Teachers, Governors and Union representatives.