Cambridgeshire’s schools have received some shocking end-of-term news: despite getting some of the lowest investment per pupil in the country, the government has temporarily put the brakes on fairer funding.
As students and teachers prepared for the start of the school summer holidays, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that plans to bring in fairer funding in the 2017 to 2018 academic year have been delayed.
Cambridgeshire’s schools receive £600 less per pupil than the English average, with £4200 a year being spent per pupil – the lowest funding in the country. This contrasts sharply with the best funded areas, where £6300 is spent per student annually.
Speaking exclusively to Spotted in Ely, Southeast Cambridgeshire MP Lucy Frazer said she was “disappointed that fairer funding for schools has been delayed by a year” and has already expressed her views to Ms Greening.
“I have reiterated to the Secretary of State how the current formula affects our region and highlighted the differences in funding, with pupils in Cambridgeshire receiving significantly less per head than the highest-funded areas.
“Despite the delay, I am pleased that the Government is still very much committed to the funding formula. I hope that the delay will provide the opportunity to ensure the best possible decisions are made for the formula’s implementation, and will continue to campaign for my constituents on this important issue.”
Local parents have expressed their disappointment and dismay about the funding decision.
Ely mother of four Liz Wright is a governor at a local primary school and works for a cluster of 14 schools in Cambridge.
She said: “Cambridgeshire has been one of the lowest funded authorities for schools funding for many years and yet it is one of the most expensive places in the country to live and work.
“If Cambridgeshire schools were funded at the national average, schools would be able to provide much more to each pupil; more teachers, greater and earlier intervention for students in need, extra lunchtime supervision and additional provision for sport, music and drama.
“Is it any wonder that more and more Cambridgeshire schools are underperforming (according to Ofsted and Government floor targets – but not necessarily by the community), given the poor levels of funding compared to their near neighbours?”
Many school budgets this year had been “cut to the bone” in anticipation of fairer funding being introduced next year, she said.
“It will have come as a real blow to many schools, who simply cannot sustain their provision at the current levels in the long term. The schools I know are amazing in prudent financial management and using budgets effectively for the benefit of the children, but they are increasingly relying on fundraising activities and outside income (such as lettings) to enrich provision.
“It’s also a shame that the government chose to announce this on the last day of term and the last day of Parliament before the summer break. The introduction of the new curriculum and new assessment systems this year has also placed new pressures on schools.”
Emma Sadler served on the Parent Teacher Association of Fordham Primary School from 2009 until 2015, including three years as chair.
She said: “When I first heard the funding statistics for Cambridgeshire schools I was really shocked at the local deficit. Being helpless to change that fact but wanting to make parents aware, I immediately included it in the speech I gave each year, in the hope that it would encourage involvement.”
There is a lot of pressure on PTAs to raise cash for items that schools “really shouldn’t struggle” to afford, Mrs Sadler said.
“Historically, our PTA was put in place predominantly as a means for planning social occasions – school discos etc. As funding became ever tighter we were getting requests for anything from additional money for coach fees for school trips, computing equipment to basic office equipment – we’re talking thousands of pounds per year.
“In my opinion, schools in rural areas struggle the most as there is a shortage of local businesses that are able to help with sponsorship or donations and it falls to parents – the same few parents – trying their very best to seek out new ways to raise funds.”