LETTER: West Sussex children not treated fairly

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[Note: Secondary headteachers in West Sussex have written an open letter to the West Sussex County Times expressing their concern regarding educational funding in the county. This letter is printed below in its entirety:]

Why are the children of West Sussex worth less than nearly all other children in England when it comes to educational funding? This is the question that the 37 secondary headteachers of West Sussex are asking.

Most readers will be staggered to read that if their child goes to school in some parts of England, they will be funded at levels up to 60 per cent more than those in West Sussex. We believe an outdated grant system is to blame which has not been tackled by a succession of governments.

The end result is that the children of West Sussex are not being treated fairly. This means that most secondary schools in West Sussex must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.

Analysis by the Association of School and College Leaders suggests the poorest-funded schools such as those in West Sussex will receive £1.9m less than the best-funded in the next year.

The ASCL analysis shows that schools in the ten best-funded areas will on average receive grants of £6,297 per pupil in 2015-16, compared with an average of £4,208 per pupil in the ten most poorly funded areas.

West Sussex is the fourth worst funded authority out of the 154 authorities. These differences in funding levels mean that for a typical secondary school of 920 students, this equates to a budget of £5.8m in the best-funded areas and £3.9m in the most poorly funded, such as West Sussex - a difference of £1.9m.

This is enough to pay the total costs - salaries and pension contributions - of an additional 40 full-time teachers.

The consequence for students in West Sussex is clear. If there is less money per student to run a school they will be taught in larger classes, with fewer options and a diminished wider provision than students in better funded counties. This will impact both on the next stage of their education, as well as their employment prospects.

As headteachers we are keen to engage with politicians of all parties to address this situation urgently.

We believe an outdated grant system is to blame and school funding has become a postcode lottery. In West Sussex, schools receive inadequate funding because of a historic grant system that does not work. This means that many schools in West Sussex must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.

The problem becomes potentially catastrophic over the next two years as additional costs are passed to schools with no increases in budget. A school of 1,000 students will be expected to reduce costs by around £250,000 over the next two years. When our schools are funded so poorly this can only be done by reducing staffing and so increasing class sizes.

As a group of headteachers, we have written to our local MPs to ask to meet with them urgently. It is critical they understand the inequity in the funding system so that they are able to support the cause of fair funding for West Sussex students.

Secondary School headteachers:

Doug Thomas (West Sussex Alternative Provision College)

Rob Corbett (Ifield Community College)

David Carter (St Philip Howard School)

Paul Kennedy (Holy Trinity C of E School)

Julian Grant (Sackville School)

Nick Wergan (Steyning Grammar School)

Sheila Carroll (West Sussex Alternative Provision College)

Marianne Gentilli (TLA Woodard Academy)

Jonathan Morris (Warden Park Academy)

Jules White (Tanbridge House School)

Michael Ferry (St Wilfrid’s School)

Siobhan Denning (The Forest School)

Carolyn Dickinson (Worthing High School)

Joe Vitalgliano (Midhurst Rother College)

Colin Taylor (Oakmeeds Community College)

Mike Garlick (The Regis School)

Steve Mercer (St Andrew’s Boys’ School)

Mark Anstiss (Felpham Community College)

Sue Marooney (Durrington High School)

Martin Brown (Imberhorne School)

David Brixey (Angmering School)

Simon Liley (The Bourne School)

Leon Nettley (Millais School)

Rose Hetherton (Downlands School)

Peter Woodman (The Weald School)

Chris Keating (Davison School)

Mike Madden (Chatsmore School)

Phil Stack (Oriel School)

Eddie Rodriguez (Oathall School)

Nick Taunt (Bishop Luffa School)

Yasmin Maskatiya (Chichester High School for Girls)

Yasmin Maskatiya (Chichester High School for Boys)

Jim Coupe (Shoreham Academy)

Allison Murphy (Rydon School)

Ann-Marie Latham (The Selsey Academy)

Peter Midwinter (Sir Robert Woodard Academy)

Pauline Montalto (Thomas Bennett Community College)

Rob Carter (St. Paul’s Catholic College)

Secondary Special School headteachers:

Gill Perry (Woodlands Mead)

Maria Davis (Cornfield)

Phillip Potter (Oak Grove College)

Grahame Robson (Manor Green)