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Education Funding in High Peak and Derbyshire Dales

You will be aware from press coverage that there has been a lot of discussion about school funding recently.  In this letter I wanted to let you know about the situation for local schools, including Lady Manners School.

Along with other headteachers in the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales area, I have agreed to write to parents a jointly constructed letter to express our concern over the future of education funding in our area. It is easy to believe, listening to government press releases, that education funding in this country has been protected. In fact, whilst the total spent on education is “higher than ever before”, the amount spent per child is falling in real terms. When increasing costs are taken into account an average school will experience an 8% real terms cut in its funding over the course of this parliament and the situation for schools like our own which has a Sixth Form is often worse.

In Derbyshire, schools have historically been less well funded than in many other areas of the country and so headteachers have been supportive of the Government’s plans for a National Funding Formula to more fairly distribute school funding across England. Last December however, it was shocking to discover, now that the proposed formula has been published, that all High Peak and Derbyshire Dales secondary schools will actually lose money under the new arrangements. Lady Manners School is forecast to lose £57,000 per year in core funding if this new formula goes ahead. This is equivalent to a cut of 1.1%. This is on top of other reductions that we are already having to make.

These changes are coming at a time when schools are dealing with the biggest changes to the curriculum and exams for a long time and when the pressure on schools to deliver results has, rightly, never been higher.

Last year we reduced staffing to help reduce our wage bill. This has meant we already have fewer teachers, fewer teaching assistants, fewer administration and support staff than the year before. This year we are having to reduce further. We have made these changes because running a budget deficit is unsustainable. If cuts continue it is likely that in future we and all other secondary schools in High Peak and Derbyshire Dales will see bigger class sizes, less support available for vulnerable children and a more restricted set of option choices available in our schools.

It seems to us that there are two basic problems: the government is not putting enough money into education and the proposed new funding formula is badly designed and disadvantages schools in areas like ours.

Headteachers and governors are lobbying the government to think again about their plans. If you are as concerned as we are you may wish to consider contacting your MP to express your views. Pressure on MPs from constituents really can make a difference.

The government’s current consultation on the new National School Funding Formula, the capital plan to expand grammar schools in England and tax-free charitable status for Independent Schools is open until Wednesday 22 March 2017. Beyond that, the general issue of underfunding for schools is also worth raising because it will be an on-going problem, particularly for our area.

Thank you in anticipation of your understanding and support.

Yours sincerely

A D Meikle