‘Fed up’ schools bill Treasury for £191m

Headteachers campaigning in Downing Street
Headteachers campaigning in Downing Street

West Sussex headteachers have billed the Treasury to the tune of £191,470,280.

In a move described as “an absurd stunt” by one MP, the heads – along with more than 5,000 colleagues in 31 counties – have sent invoices of varying amounts to the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

They said the bills represented the difference between the funding received by their schools and the amount received by schools in Westminster.

As part of the WorthLess? campaign, heads have spent more than two years fighting for fairer funding, but described their efforts with both the Treasury and the Department for Education as “constructive yet ultimately fruitless”.

In a letter to Mr Hammond, accompanying the invoice, they said: “Bluntly, it is neither sustainable nor credible for the Treasury and Department for Education to keep trotting out the same half-truths and partial information.

“We are fed up of being told that there is more money in education than ever before when parallel rising costs are completely ignored, or when the half a million extra children who have swelled our school rolls since 2010 seem to be entirely overlooked. Our schools need to be given the same ‘tools’ to deliver as other better-funded parts of the country.

“Our children all sit the same examinations and our schools are judged by the same Ofsted criteria.”

The headteachers have asked for a meeting with ministers from the Treasury and the Department for Education “to look at how these crucial issues can be resolved and to find a mutually acceptable way forward”.

They said they had also arranged a meeting with West Sussex MPs on February 5.

Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames was not impressed with the actions of the headteachers. He said: “I think it’s an absurd stunt and it’s not helpful.”

Sir Nicholas has been a vocal supporter of the call for better funding, having previously described the imbalance between schools as “unacceptable and wrong”.

Having lobbied for the new National Funding Formula, he and his fellow West Sussex MPs said they recognised there was more to be done and the issue remained “a high priority”.

But he said of the decision to bill the Treasury: “What makes for an asinine headline is not a serious way of getting money from the government.”