Hundreds of head teachers in West Sussex have written to their local MPs warning that school budgets are under “extreme strain” and accusing the Department for Education’s national funding formula (NFF) of “giving with one hand whilst taking away with two”.
In an open letter the heads say that their schools are having to “reduce staffing levels, increase class sizes and make cuts to a raft of curricular and pastoral provision”.
A new NFF for schools was outlined by education secretary Justine Greening last month, designed to iron out discrepancies in the amount of money which schools receive in different parts of the country. It will see 10,740 schools gain but 9,128 lose out, although even the schools that stand to benefit risk seeing their increased income outweighed by real-terms cuts and soaring costs.
In their letter, the West Sussex heads argue that the NFF fails to provide a “meaningful remedy” because it has been “undermined” by a lack of core funding and the “introduction of huge unfunded cost burdens”, which the heads label “stealth taxes on schools”.
The DfE’s approach to funding amounts to “giving with one hand whilst taking away with two”, the letter claims.
It says that no school in West Sussex has been offered additional financial support in 2017-18, leaving them in a “'standstill’ or worse financial position over the next 3-4 years", and warns that the financial future for schools is “extremely bleak”.
In light of the financial situation, the letter, understood to be from around 300 heads, asks MPs whether they support “other costly initiatives” such as the government’s mooted expansion of grammar schools or the introduction of free schools “where there is ‘no basic need’”.