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Headteachers meet in the middle for schools funding compromise

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019 11:13am

By Stephen Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

A compromise has been reached to fund schools across Cheshire East over the next year.

Cheshire East Council’s cabinet approved the borough’s funding formula for 2019-20 at their cabinet meeting yesterday (5 February), after schools met in the middle to secure a deal.

Secondary schools across the borough had been keen to move towards the national funding formula, having secured a minimum £4,800 per pupil guarantee from central Government, but primary schools insisted they had more to lose by making the switch.

David Hermitt, executive principal at Congleton High School, is chairman of the Cheshire East Schools Forum.

He said: “Council officers have worked very, very hard and have come up with a compromise proposal.

“In that proposal, the requests of primary schools have been listened to, and there is as little movement as possible in their budgets.

“And the request from secondary schools, about minimum funding of £4,800 has been listened to, and every Cheshire East secondary school therefore has a minimum of £4,800 per pupil.

“At the moment we are one of the poorest-funded local authorities in the country, and although this minimum funding that we now have is better, it still is not good enough.”

The 2019-20 funding formula will see primary schools receive a minimum of £3,500 per pupil, while secondary schools receive a minimum of £4,800 per pupil, while 0.5 per cent of funding from the ‘schools block’ formula will be transferred to the high needs budget to meet increasing pressures.

Cllr Jos Saunders, cabinet member for children and families, moved to reassure Mr Hermitt that CEC is lobbying for fairer funding – having discussed the issue with MPs ‘at length’.

She said: “We are not adverse to doing our best because at the end of the day it is very, very important for the economic vitality of Cheshire East that our children and young people get the education they deserve – and that includes all of our children.”

Cllr Paul Bates, cabinet member for finance and communication, added: “I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge what the schools achieve with the limited budget that they have.

“It is a huge financial matter, we will go into bat with you in terms of fairer funding, it’s on our agenda most weeks in terms of informal cabinet.

“The action we take in lobbying MPs will not stop until we get what we believe is the fairer funding for Cheshire East that eases the financial pressure on both the schools and this council.”

Laura Smith, Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich, spoke at a National Association of Head Teachers summit last Friday calling for fairer funding in the borough – while Esther McVey, Conservative MP for Tatton, is due to meet with education secretary Damian Hinds MP on the matter.

Labour Cllr Dorothy Flude, vice chairman of the Schools Forum, told the cabinet: “We’re in a bit of a mess really.

“Nationally, Brexit has taken over the very important decisions that need to be made, including the national funding formula for our schools.

“If it ever happens that we move to the national funding formula, it will not be of much help to our Cheshire schools. We will still be at the bottom of the funding pile.

“One could say that someone always has to be at the bottom of the funding pile, but in my opinion – and in the opinion of everyone in this room today – we have been at the bottom for far too long.”

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