School funding review is called for during debate

Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, speaking in the House of Commons on broadband (photo submitted). SUS-151014-092141001
Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, speaking in the House of Commons on broadband (photo submitted). SUS-151014-092141001

NICK Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, has called for school funding to be reviewed by the Government as ‘a basic issue of fairness’.

He made the comments during a backbench debate on school funding in Westminster Hall on Thursday (5 November).

Mr Herbert said: “Although West Sussex might be seen as a leafy and affluent county, it is not entirely so – there are significant pockets of deprivation.”

The Conservative MP noted that West Sussex was the fourth worst-funded district for schooling in England with a per-pupil spending of £4,198, beneath the England average of £4,612 and significantly below the £8,587 average received by the City of London.

Evidence of the funding shortfall in Sussex schools, Mr Herbert said, was to be found in its ‘relatively poor’ pupil-teacher ratios compared to other districts.

He pointed out that Midhurst Rother College, an academy serving students from Arundel and South Downs, has a pupil-teacher ratio of 1:17, while London’s Paddington and Lambeth academy schools have ratios of 1:8 and 1:12 respectively.

“If West Sussex were funded just at the average level for all county councils, our schools would receive an additional £15 million per annum,” claimed the MP.

Before the 2015 general election Prime Minister David Cameron made a ‘flat cash’ commitment to protect per-pupil funding levels from public spending cuts.

But Mr Herbert suggested this did not go quite far enough: “It will be hard for schools to deal with flat cash if their funding is already on the floor.

“What heads and chairs of governors from schools in my constituency are saying to me is that they already face a difficult position because of the relatively poor funding.”

The MP noted that there were difficulties inherent in expecting standards to rise from cash boosts alone, but suggested the situation was so bad it needed review.

He said: “We cannot always say that improving public services means giving them more money, but I think that we are making it harder for schools when they are funded at the level that they are and when the unfairness is so manifest.”

While welcoming the Government’s manifesto commitment to deal with the problem of school funding Mr Herbert also said that the issue should be addressed in the upcoming Autumn Statement and Spending Review.