More than 80 cross-party MPs have written to chancellor Philip Hammond calling on him to increase school and special needs funding to prevent inequalities in education.
MPs Gary Streeter (Conservative), Laura Smith (Labour) and Layla Moran (Liberal Democrats), who are vice chairs of the f40 campaign group – which is made up of 42 local authorities with some of the lowest funding for education in England – have been joined by fellow MPs to ask the chancellor to increase funding for education before "permanent damage" is done to UK schools.
In their letter to Mr Hammond, the MPs wrote that they were seeking equal opportunities in education for children, regardless of where they lived.
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The MPs urged Mr Hammond to consider removing historic inequalities and funding protections in the system; increasing funding for all schools significantly; raising basic entitlement to ensure school running costs are met; and injecting at least £1.4 billion immediately into high-needs education.
Some schools receive up to £3,000 less per child per year, amounting to almost £1 million a year less for a school with 330 pupils.
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Schools are also reportedly closing on Friday afternoons to give teachers planning and preparation time, as they cannot afford to pay staff to cover this protected time.
The national funding formula is intended to allocate funding to schools more equally based on a single set of principles, but has only been rolled out in a "soft" format.
Local authorities are still able to choose how they allocate funds to different schools.
The letter states: “The f40 group continues to have fundamental concerns about the new formula. We believe the government has replaced one unfair system with another, as some of the historic unfairness has been locked into the new formula.”
“We are concerned that the formula does not give enough basic entitlement to schools and allows too much for add-ons, enabling big differences in funding to occur between different local authorities and schools.”
The MPs also raised serious concerns regarding the lack of funding for schools, as well as a growing crisis in the high-needs sector, with many schools and local authorities reporting large deficits for special educational needs funding.
Mr Streeter, MP for South West Devon, said: “Schools are being asked to take on more and more work that traditionally was undertaken elsewhere, such as youth work, parental support and mental health.
“Schools need to be suitably funded and trained for this work. In real terms, funding has not kept pace with costs and demands and, as a result, schools are finding it extremely difficult to meet basic expectations.”
Ms Smith, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, said: “Headteachers, on a daily basis, are having to make incredibly difficult decisions about where cuts can be made and this is ultimately impacting on the education of our children.”
“Education should be the core of this country, yet we have schools having to close on a Friday afternoon because they cannot afford to stay open. That should not be allowed to continue.”
Ms Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and the Lib Dems' education spokesperson, said: “Schools in Oxfordshire have suffered for years from underfunding compared to schools in more urban areas – 231 schools in our county have suffered from real-terms government cuts to per-pupil funding since 2015. Their new formula hasn’t fully resolved this.”
“Worse still, schools across England are under huge financial strain, stopping pupils getting the education they deserve. Schools should not have to sack teaching assistants and crowdfund for basic supplies just to balance the books. We cannot fail our children, particularly those with high needs who have borne the brunt of these cuts.”