School governors threaten 'strike' over funding 'too low for even very basic education'

Governors in West Sussex threaten to refuse to sign off school budgets in protest against real-terms funding cuts

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Governors protesting about real-terms school funding cuts have threatened to go on “strike”, as their national association raised fresh concerns about the proposed school funding formula.

The governors of 40 schools in West Sussex have written to MPs warning they may refuse to sign off school budgets for 2017-18 in protest at funding pressures.

The National Audit Office said last month that savings which schools will have to make will equate to an 8 per cent real-terms cut between 2014-15 and 2019-20.

The letter from West Sussex governors follows the launch – by schools in the county – of the "WorthLess?" campaign for fairer funding.

In their letter to MPs, the governors spoke of their “shock and incomprehension” at the cuts schools leaders would have to make.

They said: “Reductions in teaching and support staff, our curricular offer and pastoral/counselling care will severely undermine provision within our school.

“Governors are being asked to contemplate the diminution of skills and resources that they are able to offer students in their schools.

“This is not acceptable.”

Schools 'won't be able to balance budgets'

The letter comes after Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), revealed her organisation’s concerns about the proposed national funding formula, which was announced in December.

Speaking at a governors’ seminar at the Bett Show in London on Saturday, she said: “The formula that they have produced, while each of the elements is perfectly reasonable, the way they have weighted it – we think there will be some schools that do not have enough money to balance the budget for very basic education.”

She added that, in its submission to the current consultation on the funding formula, the NGA will argue that the amount allocated to schools for each pupil should be increased.

However, speaking this morning about the “strike” threat in West Sussex, she urged governing bodies “not to withdraw from their role when, more than ever, our schools depend on strong governing boards to make decisions in the best interests of children”.

She added that while the action in West Sussex has “obvious PR merit”, governing bodies have a legal responsibility for the financial oversight of their school, including deciding how the budget is spent.

Instead, she encouraged governors to lobby their MPs.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Over the last six years we have seen the number of children being taught in schools that are rated 'good' or 'outstanding' rise by more than 1.8 million. School funding is at its highest level on record, at more than £40 billion in 2016-17. We are protecting per-pupil funding so where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will increase.

“The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, but the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode. Under our proposals, West Sussex would see an overall uplift in funding for schools of 3.5 per cent.”

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