Education Secretary urged to improve Devon schools’ funding

Damian Hinds, Cllr James McInnes and headteachers Owen Wilder and Tania Beard

Posted on: 15 November 2018

The Education Secretary Damian Hinds has been urged to improve funding for Devon’s schools on a two-day visit to the county.

And he was also strongly lobbied to provide more cash for the county’s most vulnerable youngsters.

Mr Hinds was invited to Devon by the deputy leader of the county council and Cabinet member for schools, James McInnes.

Mr McInnes has recently taken over as chairman of the influential national lobbying group for schools, f40.

It’s made up of the worst funded education authorities in the country.

The latest figures show every child in a Devon school still gets £304 less in funding than the national average which means the county is losing out on £27 million every year.

The county’s Early Years’ funding also falls short with children getting £279 less than the national average – a funding gap of £2.8 million.

And the funding for the county’s most vulnerable children – the high needs block – has failed to keep pace with the rise in demand.

Since 2015 there has been a 14.5 per cent increase in the number of children with education, health and care plans.

But funding from national government has only gone up by two per cent from £62.6 million to £64.1 million.

Hugo Swire MP, St Martin’s head Tania Beard and Damian Hinds with pupils at the Cranbrook school

Mr Hinds had a two-hour meeting with Mr McInnes, council leader John Hart, chief executive Phil Norrey, head of education Dawn Stabb, Head Accountant for Education Adrian Fox, South West Devon MP Gary Streeter and headteachers Matthew Shanks, Alun Dobson and Sarah Pickering and governors’ representative Maria Wallis. The next day he visited St Martin’s Primary at Cranbrook and Ellen Tinkham special school in Exeter.

Councillor James McInnes

Mr McInnes said today: “We are grateful to the Secretary of State for the time he spent with us and we told him we wanted to do all we can to provide him with the ammunition he needs to fight for more funding in Government as they review public spending.

“I recognise that the Government has made changes to the national system for funding education but we still do not have a fair funding system.

“I also recognise that the Government has provided more cash for schools in Devon and we have moved up the table of low-funded authorities. But we emphasised to Mr Hinds that it is not enough.

“f40 has calculated that nationally we need to spend £2 billion more on our main funding for schools with another £1.5 billion on the high needs block which helps fund our most vulnerable young people.

“If we do not do this as a nation then things are only going to get worse in our schools and that will have a serious impact on how well our children can learn.

“I impressed on Mr Hinds that his officials need to base our funding on current data and not historical numbers and that the basic needs of every child have to be provided for in the basic grant.

“Schools should not have to be relying on topping up their finances from lots of different add-ons.

“We need to see education funding that is at least inflation-proofed and guaranteed for at least three years so that headteachers can plan.

“Ministers are asking them to be business-like but then tying their hands behind their backs because they don’t know what their funding will be in 12 months.”

“There simply isn’t enough money nationally to take account of the rise in the number of children being educated and all the extra pressures and responsibilities that have been placed on heads.

“In Devon, the fact that schools have had to cut around 600 teaching and support staff posts in the past year to keep their budgets in the black is testament to that.

“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both signalled that we are moving towards the end of austerity.

“There will be a clamour for more funding from no end of services.

“But we need to make the case for education powerfully and cogently and I will continue doing that on behalf of Devon’s schools.

“This two-day visit by Mr Hinds was an excellent start and we provided a united front on behalf of Devon’s schools but we must keep up the pressure.”

Mr Hinds said “Thank you very much to James McInnes, Gary Streeter and others for organising an insightful conversation about local education, as well as two school visits in Devon”.

Posted in: DCC Homepage | Education