Damian Hinds must address Gloucestershire's school funding crisis - David's letter to Education Minister
The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street
December 5, 2018
Education Funding Crisis in Gloucestershire
I am writing to you following proposals by Gloucestershire County Council aimed at addressing the crisis in education funding in Gloucestershire and, in particular, funding for the education of children with High Needs and Special Education Needs and Disablities (SEND).
GCC is projecting an overspend of over £3 million in its High Needs budget for 2019/20 because of rising demand. It is now proposing to cover this deficit by transferring funds from the Schools Block portion of the Direct Schools Grant to the High Needs block.
GCC has confirmed that it has now submitted an appeal to the you to ask that it be allowed to transfer 0.25% from the Schools Block to High Needs in 2019/20. This proposed transfer was not supported by the Gloucestershire Schools Forum which represents county schools.
The secondary schools in my constituency are unanimous in their view that if the transfer is allowed to go ahead it will have a severe effect on their budgets and their ability to provide a quality education. They have told me that this transfer would take sums of around £80,000 to £200,000 from the budgets that they had been promised and will lead to redundancies, loss of subjects, text books and equipment.
Primary Schools are also deeply concerned about the impact of the transfer of funds.
As one headteacher told me; “This will pull the rug from under our feet.”
Budgets are already pared to the bone, as schools struggle to cope with rising costs, including the teachers’ pay award. This will be yet another blow.
It also means that, for secondary schools in my constituency, the government’s pledge of a ‘minimum’ per pupil spend’ of £4,800 will not materialise.
The proposed transfer of funding by Gloucestershire County Council makes a mockery of that minimum spending pledge, undermining any notion that the National Funding Formula was a ‘fairer’ distribution of education funding.
While I understand that the costs of High Needs provision are rising, and are predicted to rise further, it cannot be right that the Gloucestershire County Council’s proposed solution is to compromise the opportunities of almost all county pupils.
Headteachers in Stroud are passionate about ensuring that all children reach their potential, yet their frustration and fear for the future is clear to me.
It is for this reason that I am writing to you to ask you to firstly reject the proposed transfer of funds from Gloucestershire’s Schools Block to the High Needs and help the county to find a way forward.
I am also asking you to ensure that Gloucestershire secondary school pupils all receive the pledged £4,800 minimum per pupil spend, and to look again at the funding allocation for Gloucestershire so that this county is able to adequately fund High Needs provision without compromising the needs of its wider school populations.
David Drew MP
MP for Stroud constituency