Underfunding of schools an ‘embarrassment’ for Tories

Some of the Worth Less? campaigners who went to Downing Street on October 18 2016 to appeal for fairer funding for West Sussex schools. SUS-161018-100615001

Some of the Worth Less? campaigners who went to Downing Street on October 18 2016 to appeal for fairer funding for West Sussex schools. SUS-161018-100615001

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Underfunding of schools has been labelled a ‘continuing embarrassment’ for Conservatives both nationally and in West Sussex, according to opposition parties at County Hall.

Labour’s Michael Jones called on the Tory administration to set up a £1m emergency fund for schools forced to make staffing cuts, to put greater pressure on the Government to ensure West Sussex schools have the funding they need, and asked all councillors to support the Worth Less campaign in calling for ministers to bring forward transitional relief.

Worth Less? campaign

Worth Less? campaign

However a Tory amendment approved at last month’s Full Council meeting instead asked the cabinet to continue putting pressure to make the case for funding for West Sussex schools, and called on every member to continue to support the Worth Less campaign for the rapid introduction of a fair national funding formula.

Mr Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) explained how the current level of funding was ‘whittling away our schools’ ability to operate’, and even with the new national funding formula, West Sussex would remain funded 148th out of 151 authorities.

He added: “The lack of funding is already having a direct effect on our pupils.”

But Michael Cloake (Con, Worthing Pier) explained how West Sussex’s Tory MPs had been working for a fairer funding and felt teachers ‘deserve a vote of thanks rather than playing politics right now’.

He called for the issue to be ‘lifted above party politics’ and highlighted the extra £1m to grant maintained schools for counselling, announced by the county council in February.

But James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East), leader of the Lib Dem group, called educational underfunding a ‘continuing embarrassment for the Conservatives both here and nationally’.

Although exam results were good, he suggested ‘they are actually lower than they should be in a county such as ours’.

Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), leader of the county council, explained that 83 percent of West Sussex children were in good or outstanding schools, but they did need the council’s support as they are working in ‘tough financial times’.

She acknowledged a case for the current funding formula being ‘ripped up’ and replaced with one that recognised the base cost of how much it took to run a school ‘whether it is in Bognor Regis, Tyne and Wear or Birmingham’.

The Tory amendment was carried by 37 votes to 13 with eight abstentions, while the substantive motion was then agreed by 45 votes to six with six abstentions.

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