Schools warn diminishing budgets will threaten standards of education

    Acting Head of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys Simon Marsh

    THE HEADS of four high-performing schools have revealed how they are having to scale back the number of subjects they can offer students due to cuts from central government.

    This month, the government is phasing in a new formula which they argue ‘will make funding fair for schools and children’.

    However, a report from the National Audit Office found that schools would need to find £3billion in efficiency savings by 2019-20.

    This equates to a net real-terms reduction in per pupil funding of eight per cent.

    The formula’s financial rebalancing was billed to favour schools in Kent and grammars in particular who have traditionally received less money per-pupil than comprehensives elsewhere in the country, particularly London.

    However, according to the Acting Head of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, Simon Marsh, ‘in reality, we will still be facing a real terms cut’.

    He added: “Although under the new proposed funding formula the school is expecting to see an increase of around £88,000 per year, the total schools budget for the formula doesn’t take into account increases in teachers’ and support staff salaries, increases in pension contributions, higher National Insurance contributions and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

    “This year we have cut GCSE Statistics from the curriculum, and we have also cut back on the daily newspapers and on lunchtime cover.

    “We fear that unless something is done soon to address the ongoing failure to adequately fund education, we may have to reduce staff numbers and introduce further changes to the curriculum.”

    His concerns were echoed by Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School Head, Linda Wybar.

    In recent years the school has had to increase class sizes in Sixth Form to 26 pupils as well as jointly delivering some A-Level subjects with The Skinners’ School as a way to deal with dwindling resources.

    “This is only a small part of the cost-cutting measures taken; there is now nowhere left to cut,” she warned.

    Post-16 A-Level classes seem to at theforefront of those losing out from the lack of funds.

    Despite full-time education becoming compulsory up to the age of 18 since 2015, ‘all schools’ Sixth Forms and post-16 allocation have been losing funding over the past three years’ according to the Head of St. Gregory’s Catholic School, Sean McQuillan.

    “So, even with an increased budget, these [Sixth Form] pupils will suffer,” he added.

    Head of The Skinners’ School, Edward Wesson said: “Since 2010, funding for the school has been flat and the school has lost around £650,000 from its budget. This has led to higher class size in the lower school as well as in the Sixth Form.

    “With respect to the A-Level curriculum, we will constantly have to review it in light of the current situation.”

    He added that since last summer, the school has had to ask parents to make voluntary contributions for new Science and Religious Studies textbooks.

    The concerns of these local head teachers mirror the outcry heard nationwide wide around inadequate funding to education.

    In Cheshire, five school principals warned that they are considering bringing in four day weeks because they are having to scale back costs so significantly.

    What is the new funding formula?

    The government is introducing the national funding formula to calculate the amount of core revenue funding that mainstream schools in England will attract.
    There isn’t currently a national formula like this. Local authority areas get different amounts of money per pupil.
    They then draw up their own local funding formulas to share the money out between schools.
    With the new arrangement, 54 per cent of schools are set to receive an increase in their funding, with 46 per cent set to lose out – at a maximum of 3 per cent per pupil.
    However, a report from the National Audit Office found that schools would need to find £3billion in efficiency savings by 2019-20.
    This equates to a net real-terms reduction in per pupil funding of eight per cent.
    In their 2015 manifesto, the Conservatives promised that ‘the amount of money following your child into school will be protected’.
    The National Union of Teachers estimate that, due to cuts in government funding, £2.2million will be lost from secondary schools in the Tunbridge Wells borough, the equivalent to £362 per pupil or 57 full-time teachers.

    What local county council candidates say about the funding situation…