Today Labour Councillor, Dr Darren Paffrey, sent the following letter to Justine Greening, co-signed by over 40 Headteachers and Chairs of Governors from the city of Southampton, raising concerns about insufficient funding, and the coming real-terms cuts to schools budgets.
We write to raise urgent concerns about the state of government funding for schools in Southampton. In doing so, we note that we are not alone, and that schools and local authorities up and down the country have also raised significant concerns on this matter.
Urban settings such as Southampton are already facing cuts to the Educational Services Grant which threatens to undo the considerable improvements in attendance, engagement, progress and attainment of our young people. A number of our schools are also set to see per-pupil funding cut under government proposals to introduce a National Fair Funding Formula, and others will receive increases which fall way behind rising costs. The new formula will mean less money for schools within cities like Southampton, meaning schools could be hamstrung in their ability to employ the best teachers and deliver the highest quality learning experience.
While addressing historical disparities in funding for rural areas may be considered fair, cutting money from some of the most challenging and deprived communities in the country, where educational engagement and progress is often more difficult and costly to achieve, is certainly not fair. We believe it is a short-sighted and unambitious move, and if the Secretary of State is truly committed to improving outcomes for all children from all backgrounds, then we ask her to look seriously and ambitiously at providing sufficient funding for all schools, not simply cutting money from some in order to give to others.
We also ask you to recognise that ensuring opportunity is equal for all does not automatically mean identical funding across very different contexts: securing a child’s progress and putting them on a level playing field with other pupils – as the DfE states it wishes to do – inevitably proves more expensive in some contexts than in others.
Head Teachers, governors, and council officers across Southampton’s schools are working hard to balance the books, but when there simply is not enough money from government to cover rising costs, then Heads are already at the stage of having to decide which subjects will have to be scrapped, while teaching assistants and mental health support workers could face redundancy. Efficiency savings have already been made; there is now no alternative to these decisions being taken as a direct result of DfE funding changes and cuts. We urge the Secretary of State to commit to immediate action to reverse the situation that schools are being forced into.
We invite the Secretary of State to visit Southampton and to see first-hand the impact of the decisions she is taking. We hope this will convince her of the urgent need to address the damaging impacts of current funding cuts.