Fenland schools have reduced the number of hours of teaching assistants, cancelled after school clubs and cut specialised teaching and coaching
Practically every school in our area has lost out on funding over the last five years despite some additional Government money.
The School Cuts coalition has published analysis of the latest Government school funding figures, which show 217 out of 229 schools in Cambridgeshire lost out between 2015 and 2019.
In some cases the per pupil funding has dropped by nearly £600, including at Christchurch’s Townley School, while in others the figure is much lower – for instance All Saints Academy in March has lost just £14 per pupil.
The coalition claims there has been a £5.4bn shortfall in school funding in England over the past three years, according to an analysis of official figures by unions which says the deficit is worse than previously estimated.
The School Cuts coalition of unions representing teachers and school support staff claims the latest analysis represents the most comprehensive examination of school funding to date.
Jon Duveen and Niamh Sweeney (joint Cambridgeshire District National Education Union secretaries) said: “This is an intolerable situation. Children and young people are being short-changed by a Government that believes their education can be run on a shoe-string budget.”
However, Steve Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, refuted the coalition’s claims, stating it was a politically-motivated campaign.
He added: “The UK Statistics Authority has rebuked the School Cuts website – run by a coalition of unions – for its use of ‘misleading’ statistics that create a ‘worse picture’ of school funding.”
Mr Barclay also pointed out that Fenland has received £6million of extra funding over three years as part of the Government’s Educational Opportunities scheme and that money has not been included in the coalition’s figures.
Individual schools and academy trusts were reluctant to comment on the figures but Richard Scott, associate principal at Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech, said: “Like most other Cambridgeshire schools, Thomas Clarkson Academy has received an annual budget allocation which is significantly less than that suggested in the published national funding formula documentation and we are disappointed by this.
“TCA is working hard to manage its budget responsibly and maintain the good progress of the last few years despite the strong headwind of financial pressures.”
Another headteacher confirmed the figure for their school was correct, but did not want to comment further.
However, a spokesman for Cambridgeshire’s Local Education Authority confirmed the figures are “accurate” but added they only give a partial view of the situation.
She said the analysis is not capturing all funding streams, as the website states, so it doesn’t provide a complete picture. For example high needs, early years, is not included. However these can’t be looked at in isolation of the costs.
She added ultimately, one of the most significant issues is that the funding received is not linked to inflation.
The spokesman said: “Funding for the county’s schools has not kept pace with inflation over recent years and, although two-thirds of Cambridgeshire schools saw a modest increase in funding for 2018-19, this has been completely eroded by increasing costs including salary and pension increases, growing recruitment costs, inflation and the Apprenticeship Levy. This issue is common to schools in Fenland, Cambridgeshire and countrywide.
“Cambridgeshire is one of the worst funded education authorities in England and the real terms funding reduction (in excess of 9 per cent overall) is having an impact on the county’s schools. The county receives £400 less per child than the average funded authority and £1,600 less per child than Westminster.
“Schools in the county have responded well to the current financial environment and through careful management have been able to operate their schools within the constrained budget. However, it is having an impact. Fenland schools have shared how this had affected them operationally, from having to reduce the number or hours of teaching assistants at their school to cancelling after school clubs or cutting specialised teaching and coaching.
“Through our calls for Fair Funding for Cambridgeshire and as part of the f40 campaign we are working together with the 42 other lowest funded education authorities to put forward a new fair model for distributing education funding in England. We attended the schools funding debate at Westminster Hall triggered when more than 100,000 people (2,500 from Cambs) signed the petition calling for fair funding for schools.
“Council leader Coun Steve Count has recently written to local MPs to highlight the issue of insufficient funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities and our Schools Forum met on March 29 to discuss how schools can continue to highlight the school funding issue.