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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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No Cumbrian schools must close due to funding changes - Penrith MP

Cumbria’s MPs are to lobby Education Secretary Michael Gove over funding changes that could force school closures and throw teachers on the dole.

Rory Stewart photo
Rory Stewart

The News & Star reported yesterday that some schools will see funding slashed by a third from 2015 under a new national formula.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron has predicted that 32 schools could shut.

Now Penrith and the Border Conservative Rory Stewart has written to Mr Gove.

The MP said: “I have drawn it to his attention. All the Cumbrian MPs need to sit down with [county council leader] Eddie Martin, work through the details and present an alternative to the Secretary of State.

“Each of our schools in Cumbria is unique, with very different needs, and it is right that this be recognised and indeed celebrated. Under no circumstances must we lose any of our schools.

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not what works for Cumbria.”

Mr Stewart has also invited Schools Minister Lord Hill to visit the county.

The biggest losers under the new formula include Ellenborough & Ewanrigg Infant School in Maryport, Beacon Hill at Aspatria, Southfield Technology College in Workington and Newtown Community Primary in Carlisle.

At least 31 schools would see their funding fall by more than six per cent.

But for every loser there is a winner and some schools will be substantially better off.

The county council is consulting through its schools’ forum on how it should implement the change.

Alan Rutter, Cumbria division secretary for the National Union of Teachers and chairman of the schools’ forum, believes there could be widespread upheaval.

Staff made redundant at one school would be forced to chase jobs at schools that received extra funding.

He said: “All we are doing [in Cumbria] is applying the new rules the Government is putting forward. We don’t have a choice. The schools’ forum has worked for decades to create a funding formula that doesn’t penalise schools and ensures that schools survive. We are no longer able to do that.”

Mr Rutter wanted to avoid scaremongering.

But given that, at many schools, staffing accounts for 90 per cent of costs, jobs would inevitably be at risk.

He added: “Schools facing cuts of 20 or 30 per cent will struggle to survive in the form they currently are.

“I’d like to think that we can implement this without harming children’s education.

“But if a school is going to lose 30 per cent of its budget, it has to run differently. Whether they can maintain the same standard of education I don’t know.”

Headteachers and governors are studying the new figures.

Some are looking forward to a windfall but others will have to grapple with deep cuts.

Irthington Primary School, near Carlisle, stands to lose up to £25,807, 10.8 per cent of its funding.

The school has 63 pupils and employs three teachers and four teaching assistants.

Headteacher Lynn Harrison said: “It is top of the list for our governors’ meeting on Monday.

“We’ve had cuts in our budget before and had to cut our cloth accordingly. Fortunately, pupil numbers are on the increase and the school is nearly full.”

Have your say

@Anon - "I think you'll find the Tories are spending more on education"

Really? Square that with what the institute for fiscal studies said when they published a report in October 2011 that found spending on education between then and 2014-15 will fall by 13% – the fastest fall in any four-year period since the 1950s.

But, getting back to the issue discussed in this particular article - how can this method of distributing funds be beneficial to the education system?

Posted by Evil McBad on 19 September 2012 at 18:17

OK, Anon of 7.38, one fact springs out from the article. Our conservative dominated coalition government is proposing that a small village school should receive the same lump sum funding as a much larger urban school.

I am not party political and fully aware that both Tony Blair and David Cameron had privileged upbringings at Fettes and Eton respectively.

The fees at Eton are just short of £30K a year and if each of their 1300 pupils there pay the full boarding fees, then Eton will have an income of c£39m per year.

I am not asking for £39m for my daughter's school - I am just asking as a taxpayer that financial resources are distributed fairly. How can it be fair to allocate the same lump sum to a large school as that distributed to a smaller school? I suspect that the answer may well turn out to me, 'we are actually giving school A nothing or next to nothing' and school B nothing or next to nothing and what can be be fairer than that?'

Posted by Anon2 on 19 September 2012 at 15:51

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