Sidmouth principal backs fairer school funding campaign

PUBLISHED: 13:36 22 October 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 18 June 2010

NO EXTRA funding for Devon schools has been forthcoming following a meeting between East Devon MP Hugo Swire and Schools Minister Vernon Coaker last week.

NO EXTRA funding for Devon schools has been forthcoming following a meeting between East Devon MP Hugo Swire and Schools Minister Vernon Coaker last week.

It comes at a time when supporters of the newly launched Hands Up for Fairer School Funding campaign are calling on Government to give education in the county a fair deal.

Sidmouth College principal, Jeremy Roberts, attended Monday's campaign meeting in Exeter and says he is committed to trying to get a fairer funding formula agreed.

Campaign supporters can now petition Prime Minister Gordon Brown on www.petitions.number10.gov.uk/handsup4schools/

The petition urges him to implement a fairer education funding formula to give each child the same opportunity of education.

Mr Swire called for a meeting with then schools minister Jim Knight in March, after discussions with Mr Roberts, who sought voluntary staff redundancies because of his over-stretched budget.

This, he said, was caused by massive regional differences in allocation of Government's Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), with Devon pupils getting less than half the grant of those living in London.

Mr Swire, who has campaigned against the unfair funding system for years, said his meeting with Mr Coaker produced no quick fixes.

"I pointed out the historic deficit school funding in Devon was now creating a real crisis in schools having to lay off people, and the fact Devon is penalised," he said.

"I don't think that they are going to come up with a new formula for allocation before a General Election. It will be lost in a General Election and will be up to the incoming Government, whoever that is, to sort it out.

"He made no promises at all. As the local MP I didn't come away from the meeting with millions to spend on Devon schools."

The way needs are calculated, such as ethnicity, deprivation and language, leaves Devon in a poor position.

"It is skewed against us because we don't meet many of the deprivation targets," he said.

Mr Roberts, who attended Monday's campaign meeting, said: "Devon is the fourth lowest funded area of England for education and the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' of the nation's learners continues to widen.

"There are 96,000 children and young people in Devon whose future depends on high quality education. Their life chances are affected by this lack of fair funding from central government.

"The average annual spend on a student in the City of London is £7,603. In Devon it is £3,842.

"Even allowing for the additional demands of inner city life such a disparity is simply not fair."

He said the rural nature of Devon added extra costs for school transport and maintaining provision in small rural schools.

"I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Devon Association of Secondary Headteachers to keep the issue of fair funding in the minds of decision makers and to try to make sure that a fairer funding formula is introduced as soon as possible.


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