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Henry Smith: Schools and funding, more money and more support

In his article this week, Crawley MP Henry Smith talks about schools funding and the support needed.

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Like many parents in Crawley I’m concerned about issues at Thomas Bennett Community College regarding changes announced by their parent body, Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT).

Immediately on being made aware of these pressures I spoke with TKAT management, and have raised the issue with the Department for Education. I’ve also spoken out in the House of Commons with the new Education Secretary and it’s a cause I continue to pursue.

Around one quarter of the school’s funds are going on PFI loan repayments, following its rebuild more than a decade ago. As Leader of West Sussex County Council at the time I called on the then-Government to ensure direct funding of the project, however Tony Blair’s administration stated that it was either PFI or no rebuilding of Thomas Bennett.

West Sussex schools are to receive an extra £28 million in funding through the National Funding Formula. I’m calling for additional financial support to recognise increasing costs borne by schools and, in particular, special educational needs.

I welcome assurances that there are to be more staff to support SEND students at Thomas Bennett. As a Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia & other Specific Learning Difficulties these are causes I’ll continue to raise.

Under the new National Funding Formula (NFF), Thomas Bennett Community College is to receive an additional 12.6 per cent increase in pupil-led funding from Government.

I’ll continue to pursue this situation with the Education Secretary, with the messages I’ve received from Crawley parents very much in mind.

Henry Smith MP
Crawley Constituency

Education

Crawley Headteacher pleads with parents to challenge election candidates over school funding

Michael Ferry, who is Headteacher of St Wilfrid’s school in Crawley, has penned a letter to pupils parents encouraging them to seek answers over the problems of funding in education.

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Parents of pupils attending St Wilfrid’s school in Crawley have been sent a letter by the Headteacher Michael Ferry.

In his letter Mr Ferry asks parents to push all political candidates up for election in Crawley about funding issues for schools.

In his letter Mr Ferry says:

“St Wilfrid’s is a very successful school with a strong reputation within Crawley and West Sussex as a whole. Since 2015, I have been forced to make significant cutbacks in order to be able to set a “balanced budget” year on year.

The results of such cutbacks can be seen starkly in the reduction of the number of full time equivalent (FTE) teachers at the school; in 2014 we had 66, starting in September 2019 we had 55! Some of these reductions have been through a formal re-structuring process, others by deciding not to replace a teacher when they have left and some because there is simply a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession across a broad range of subjects.”

Referring to the upcoming election he says:

“In the coming weeks you will undoubtedly hear terms such as “more money in education than ever before!” and “levelling up” from current ministers and undoubtedly there will be “promises” from all parties in their manifestoes.

The reality is that I have to make savings year on year, as any increases in funding either real or projected are simply not enough to keep pace with the rises in costs.”

Mr Ferry finishes his letter with listing out four points he says he has identified to help inform parents and encourage a debate with candidates:

  1. Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) The recent report from the Education Select Committee can be accessed via www.publications.parliament.uk/pa.cm201920/cmselect/cmednc/20/2003.htm
  2. Current announcements from Government promise an increase in funding of £2.6bn in 2020/21, £4.8bn in 2021/22 and £7.1bn in 2022/23. These are not adjusted for inflation and only represent increases in “cash terms”. Any future government would need to increase these figures significantly and ensure that future investments are protected against rising costs. As an example, the £7.1bn projected increase 2022/23 equates to a “real terms” increase of £4.3bn once you have factored in future cost pressures.
  3. Post 16 funding for Sixth Form students must be addressed. Despite the recent announcement of a small increase of funding per student, which is hugely welcomed, it will require significantly more investment in schools and Sixth Form Colleges to ensure that further cuts in the curriculum offer are not needed and that the breadth of subjects on offer can be rich and varied.
  4. There is a recruitment crisis in teaching across many subjects, especially in the cores subjects of Science and Maths, but also in many other areas including RE, MfL, Design Technology (including Food Technology), Computers Studies, in fact, trying to recruit in any subject is exceptionally difficult and increasingly becoming more expensive. As an example, FTE teacher numbers have fallen by over 10,000 in the last four years with almost a third of teachers leaving the profession within 5 years of qualifying. Any future government must set out clear plans to address this issue and ensure that sufficient real terms funding is made available as necessary eg. If any party “promises” to increase salaries for teachers to aid recruitment, it must also provide the year on year real terms funding for this.

You can read the full letter here by clicking here.

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