Headteachers warn of looming ‘crisis’ in funding of West Sussex schools

Jules White headteacher of Tanbridge House School and Peter Woodman headteacher of the Weald School (JJP/Johnston Press). SUS-150331-092934001
Jules White headteacher of Tanbridge House School and Peter Woodman headteacher of the Weald School (JJP/Johnston Press). SUS-150331-092934001
  • Headteachers raise concerns about level of funding West Sussex secondary schools receive
  • All second heads in Horsham district sign letter warning of a ‘potential catastrophe’
  • Figures show county is fourth-worst funded in England

A ‘crisis’ in education funding in West Sussex is looming unless secondary schools in the county are given their fair share of Government grants - according to headteachers.

Almost all the area’s secondary headteachers have signed an open letter to the County Times warning that as they are being forced to slash costs over the next two years the problem is ‘potentially catastrophic’.

Most secondary schools in West Sussex must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do

Open letter from West Sussex secondary school headteachers

As West Sussex is already the fourth-worst funded area in England due to an ‘outdated’ grant system, this will mean cost-cutting can only be done by reducing staffing and increasing class sizes.

The headteachers said that parents would be ‘staggered’ that their children are ‘not being treated fairly’.

This comes at a time when some schools are already struggling to be competitive and recruit in subjects such as Maths and IT.

Peter Woodman, chairman of the West Sussex secondary headteachers’ association and headteacher at the Weald School in Billingshurst, said: “It’s about fairness and it’s about a lack of equality.”

They have asked their local MPs for meetings so politicians could ‘realise the looming educational funding crisis in West Sussex’ and ensure the long-term future of children in the area ‘was not compromised’, Mr Woodman added.

The open letter reads: “We believe an outdated grant system is to blame which has not been tackled by a succession of governments. The end result is that the children of West Sussex are not being treated fairly.

“This means that most secondary schools in West Sussex must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.

“And as the schools receive significantly less money than similar institutions in other parts of the country they are finding it harder and harder to be competitive and recruit, especially in subjects such as Maths, IT and the sciences.”

It continues: “The problem becomes potentially catastrophic over the next two years as additional costs are passed to schools with no increases in budget.

“A school of 1,000 students will be expected to reduce costs by around £250,000 over the next two years.

“When our schools are funded so poorly this can only be done by reducing staffing and so increasing class sizes.”

Headteachers who have signed the open letter include Siobhan Denning of the Forest School, Millais School’s Leon Nettley, Jules White at Tanbridge House School, Steyning Grammar School’s Nick Wergan, and Allison Murphy at Rydon Community College in Storrington.

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said: “We are aware of this funding issue and are working with headteachers and MPs to bring this to the attention of central Government.

“The cabinet member for education and skills has written to the Government to push for a national funding formula and will be seeking a ministerial meeting on the matter.

“This is an important issue as our school numbers are increasing. We would like to stress that our funding level does not mean we are one of the worst performing authorities. Our results are at national average although we obviously aspire to be a high performing county and have a clear strategic commitment to this.

“We will work in partnership with schools to help them understand the complexities of the funding regime.”

A Department for Education report from July 2014 entitled ‘fairer schools funding’ states that there is ‘widespread recognition that the current schools funding system is unfair and out of date’ and that ‘for the first time in a decade, funding is allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools rather than simply their historic levels of spending’.

But West Sussex schools are set to receive £4,206 per pupil on average for 2015/16, around £2,000 less than the average the top ten funded areas will be given.

Only Wokingham in Berkshire, Poole in Dorset, and South Gloucestershire are set to receive less than West Sussex.

The figures are based on analysis of an Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report carried out by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the ASCL, said: “It is imperative that the Government elected in May addresses this issue quickly and ensures that education funding is sufficient, sustainable and equitable.

“We recognise that there is considerable pressure on the national budget, but the country must invest in education both for its long-term prosperity, and, most importantly, the future of our children.

“The IFS report makes it clear that urgent action is needed to prevent an education funding crisis.”

Mr White, who is part of the West Sussex secondary headteachers association’s executive committee along with Mr Woodman, said: “This is the collective view of headteachers across West Sussex and we want to make sure children in our care are not disadvantaged.”

He added: “This is something that’s been happening for a long time and we need a change now.”