Tipton St John headteacher hits out at ‘fairer funding’ bid

Headteacher Colin Butler

Headteacher Colin Butler - Credit: Archant

The Government is giving to schools with one hand and taking away with the other, according to the executive headteacher of Tipton St John primary.

Colin Butler has hit out at proposals that fail to address Devon’s historic underfunding and said he is ‘dreading’ trying to balance next year’s budget. He revealed that the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) no longer just funds luxuries - and now pays for some items crucial for the pupils’ education.

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire took the fight to Westminster last week.

“These figures have to be taken in the bigger picture,” said Mr Butler.

“Tipton appears to be a winner, as it gains £8,000. However, across the federation, we are already £90,000 down on the national average. It will only make us less worse off than other schools. The Government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

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“Year on year, we are being under-funded. I’m dreading trying to balance next year’s budget.”

The Government’s review of the national funding formula for schools was intended to make the situation fair across the country.

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Devon schools currently receive £290 less per pupil than the national average. The proposals will see Sidmouth Primary School lose £50,000 and Sidmouth College £56,000. Only smaller rural schools are expected to see gains.

“The national funding formula was meant to be fairer,” said Mr Butler. “It needs to be sufficient.”

There are more and more demands on school budgets. Last year, they had to factor in the introduction of the National Living Wage and changes to pensions, and from this April they will also have to pay the apprenticeship levy.

Mr Butler said funding for children with special educational needs (SEN) also falls short. High needs pupils see the school get a maximum of £2,000, but he is spending £20,000 on one student – and the extra cash effectively comes out of the overall budget.

Devon County Council is diverting cash from its general schools budget into SEN to help fund it.

Mr Butler added: “The PTA’s money is not just going on luxuries – it’s going towards education. They had to buy iPads because we couldn’t afford it out of our budget. The Government used to pay out for IT equipment. In 21st century education, having enough iPads is almost a necessity.”

Stuart Vaughan, headteacher at Newton Poppleford Primary School, said the fairer funding proposals will cost it about £3,500 and the changes to SEN a further £10,500.

Speaking at a debate in Westminster last week, Sir Hugo reminded his Conservative colleagues that the South West delivered the Government’s majority. He added: “Let’s look again at this review, let’s get it right, and let’s get a fair deal for Devon. The minister [for schools] needs to go back to the drawing board and look at the national funding formula again in order to get this right.”

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