MORE than £1bn extra government cash for schools has been hailed as a ‘breakthrough’ for a fairer funding campaign for Solihull borough by an MP.
Meriden Conservative MP Dame Caroline Spelman said this week’s announcement of £1.3billion extra over two years from next year, under a new funding formula, followed decades of campaigning for a better deal for Solihull borough schools.
Solihull MP Julian Knight said in this week’s Solihull Observer that education secretary Justine Greening’s announcement demonstrated ministers were listening to campaigning MPs and headteachers.
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says it still amounts to real-terms freeze on school budgets, with the extra cash coming from elsewhere within the education budget – including from pots of cash for ‘free schools’ and healthy pupils’ projects.
The IFS also warned schools still faced real-terms cuts by 2020 of 4.6 per cent.
But Dame Caroline said it would mean an average three per cent more for local schools for two years – and declared it a ‘a substantial victory for everyone who have been involved in the campaign’.
She said for two decades Solihull has faced the challenge of being one of the worst funded areas in the country for education, with its schools receiving almost £1000 less per pupil than Birmingham and Coventry.
She added the announcement also reversed the problem faced by borough schools of educating over 8,000 pupils from Birmingham and Coventry who did not bring the difference in funding with them. The ‘money will follow the pupil’ under the changes, she said.
Following a meeting in Parliament with local head teachers, she said: “This is without a doubt a substantial victory for everyone who have been involved in the campaign for fairer schools funding for Solihull and I would like to congratulate the dedicated teachers, school governors, parents, campaigners and members of the local authority who have successfully campaigned to ensure that local pupils can finally receive a fair deal.
“Having campaigned for these changes since I was first elected in 1997, I am delighted that a Conservative government has taken steps to act upon local concern and put an end to the unfair post-code lottery system our pupils have been faced with for over two decades and that all schools in our area will see a cash-uplift’.”
Councillor Ken Meeson, Solihull Cabinet Member for Education said, ‘We are extremely grateful to Dame Caroline for her consistent support in seeking a fairer deal for Solihull schools.
“As a council we have campaigned for many years through the F40 Group for a Fair Funding system across the country and it is good to know that the government has committed to rectify an inequitable formula which has seen schools in Solihull having to educate children on far less money than those in neighbouring areas.
“I am sure the additional funding will be welcomed by Head Teachers, School Governors and Parents across the borough.”
Labour shadow ministers said it showed the government was ‘finally listening’.