I was interested in reading the letter from Mr Tim McCarthy CEO of Aurora Academies in the WSCT of September 29 in reply to that of Mr Price reference Academies and Free Schools in Horsham.
At a time when West Sussex schools have a crisis in funding how can an Academy Trust justify receiving Government money that erodes the funding for large sections of state schools?
You may not be aware that schools and academies in West Sussex are massively underfunded when compared to the national average or London and its environs. This year, West Sussex children received £44m less than the national average and £200m less than the average London borough.
This unfairness is crippling school budgets across the county. ‘Worth Less?’ is a campaign to fight for fairer funding to support schools to overcome the current situation. However, the government refused this support and schools were told that matters would improve with the introduction of a National Fair Funding Formula that would be in place by April 2017.
This is no longer the case and the introduction of the formula has been delayed with no clear future date set.
To make matters worse, the government continues to state that education funding has been protected.
School heads will tell you that this is simply not true. Costs in areas such as pensions and National Insurance contributions are estimated, by the Independent Institute of Fiscal Studies, to have further slashed budgets by 8-10 per cent year on year.
School leaders have made every conceivable cut to their provision and now are faced with the prospect of reducing basic services still further, all to the disadvantage of the pupils of West Sussex. The finances are so bad that schools are having to consider the following types of action:
Modifying school opening hours.
Increasing teacher to pupil ratios again.
Reducing basic services such as cleaning and site and premises work.
Stopping any investment in books and IT equipment.
Designing curriculum offers that fulfil only basic requirements.
Not replacing staff who leave.
Such radical considerations are the very last thing that any school wishes to undertake but they are being given no option. School heads and governors do not understand why children in our schools are ‘Worth Less’ than others around the country.
Even when a National Funding Formula is introduced, it will take at least three years to have a really significant effect on school budgets. West Sussex pupils cannot wait that long.
A new Free School in North Horsham is not the answer.
Dr Lesley Hendy
Comptons Lane, Horsham
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