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Cambridgeshire headteachers tell Hammond the funding sums don’t add up

The Cam Academy Trust CEO Stephen Munday
The Cam Academy Trust CEO Stephen Munday

Cambridgeshire headteachers have joined with thousands of others in England to sign a letter to the chancellor protesting against “inadequate funding” for schools.

The letter, delivered to Philip Hammond warns of teachers having to ask parents for financial contributions to cover the school’s costs.

The headteachers are calling for an extra £1.7billion from the Government over the next two years.

“We have always recognised that there is not an endless supply of money but children and families deserve a fair deal and they are not receiving that at present,” the letter states. “Inadequate school funding is also leading to other unwanted consequences. Increasingly, schools are being compelled to ask parents for financial contributions to cover costs that we are unable to bear ourselves.”

The Government has already announced £1.3billion of education funding directly into school budgets but headteachers argue that the nation’s schools are still facing a real-term cut of £1.7billion.

The protest on Tuesday (November 14) , ahead of next week’s Budget, was organised by regional groups of headteachers representing schools with 3.5million students in 25 local authority areas, including Cambridgeshire.

It follows a letter warning about funding cuts, sent to the parents of more than 2.5million pupils earlier this year.

Stephen Munday, chief executive of The Cam Academy Trust and executive principal of Comberton Village College, told the Cambridge Independent: “Everyone involved in school education in Cambridgeshire remains committed to ensuring fair funding for Cambridgeshire schools.

“Despite the commitment in principle to do this and the agreement that it really should happen, the reality remains that Cambridgeshire schools are still significantly under-funded compared to the national average.

“For the sake of every pupil in every Cambridgeshire school, we will continue to work tirelessly until genuine ‘fairer funding’ exists.”

The Government has recognised the regional anomalies in funding and published a new national funding formula.

But the headteachers argue that changes in how funding is allocated will depend on there being enough overall money in the system.

They warn that should the funding not be increased many low-funded schools would see class sizes rise above 35, all but the basic curricular provision would be stripped away, sixth-forms would close, vulnerable students would not receive comprehensive support, and schools would need to press parents for “voluntary” donations.

The heads say the funding pressures are coupled with a “crisis in teacher supply and retention”.

The letter adds: “The National Audit Office states that during 2011-16 there has been a net loss of 11,000 teachers. Schools are frequently unable to recruit specialist teachers because of a lack of availability. Perversely, we are also being forced to spend exorbitant sums of money to private agencies to ensure that we can put a teacher in front of a class. The average ‘finder’s fee’ for a single teacher is a staggering £6,000.”

The National Funding Formula “has been widely welcomed and will put an end to the historic disparities in the system”, a Department for Education has said about the headteachers’ funding protests.

“Our formula will provide significant gains for under-funded schools of up to three per cent per pupil in 2018-19 and a further three per cent in 2019-20.”

Last month, education authority Cambridgeshire County Council made an impassioned plea to the Government to prioritise “correcting historic unfair formula” and ensure a fairer funding deal for the county.

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