West Sussex County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith has given her backing to a campaign to boost funding for local schools by £20million.
The Worth Less? campaign is urging the Department for Education (DfE) to provide the relief funding while a review of the current school funding formula is carried out.
Louise Goldsmith today signalled her support for the campaign which she said was vital to ensure local children got the best start in life and to help close the skills gap which is holding back the West Sussex economy.
Currently West Sussex schools receive £41million less than the national average. However, with school budgets at breaking point, Worth Less? is calling on the DfE to provide an extra £20 million to support West Sussex school children until the new system is introduced in 2017.
To date the Government has offered just £930,000 in transitional funding, the equivalent of less than £10 per pupil. Providing each child with an extra £200 would give the county a £20m boost.
Louise said: “West Sussex MPs have made a strong case for the county’s school children and the Government has accepted the current national funding system is unfair and ordered a review. We look forward to seeing the details of the consultation. However it cannot be right that while that review process is continuing our children continue to be so significantly short changed.
“If West Sussex schools were funded to the national average, they would have an extra £41million to spend on educating our children. That is the equivalent of 1,518 more teachers. Worth Less? is asking for just half of that and I would urge the DfE to support schools with this fair short-term solution while a long-term solution is sought.
“Business leaders tell us all the time that they would love to recruit home grown talent but with a skills gap opening up in West Sussex, they have to look further afield. Fair funding would ensure West Sussex schools could play a full part in helping us to close that skills gap and ensure our children can take up the high skilled jobs our economy needs.”
The additional funding would come from underspends in the DfE budget, which in the last two full financial years have stood at around £350million. It would not leave pupils in more disadvantaged areas worse off.
Jules White, head teacher at Tanbridge House School in Horsham and Worth Less? spokesman, said: “We welcome the support of the leader of West Sussex County Council for our call for an extra £20 million in relief funding.
“The dedication of West Sussex teachers and the hard work of the county’s pupils should not be an excuse for the Government not to do what is right.
“The Government needs local economies to continue to grow but chronic under-investment in West Sussex’s future will harm not just our children’s life chances but the wider national economy too.”