A government plan to bypass local authorities and give education funding directly to schools has been described as “a terrible mistake”.
As part of a proposed new system, which would see a fairer allocation of the country’s education budget, Nicky Morgan MP said she wanted to take authorities such as West Sussex County Council out of the equation by 2019/20.
Mrs Morgan, secretary of state for education, launched a consultation into the plans for a national funding formula – which would be introduced in 2017/18 – last week. The consultation will end on April 17.
Announcing the proposal to bypass local authorities, a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The current school funding system relies on local authorities determining how much funding schools are allocated.
“A single national funding formula for schools will remove the role of the local authority, ensuring pupils with similar needs attract the same level of funding to their school, and will also give headteachers far more certainty over future budgets.”
Councillor Sue Mullins, leader of West Sussex Labour Group, agreed with leaders of the GMB union for school support staff, that bypassing authorities such as West Sussex could lead to the privatisation of the country’s education provision.
She added: “Personally I think it is a terrible mistake to take away local authority input into the running and funding of schools and the provision of education in the county.
“There has to be an overview and commitment to education for a whole area, with all its differences and variation of needs, not just a competition between individual schools and powerful money making education trusts, all competing for the best and most able pupils and the highest level of funding.”
A council spokesman said the authority welcomed the consultation and would be “examining the detail very carefully before making our views known in an official response”.
Mrs Mullins said: “Local councils are best placed to know the needs and requirements of their local schools and populations and must be part of any decision-making process.
“It cannot be taken over and managed solely by central government. That is not democracy.”
The call for fairer funding was started by headteachers – including every single one in West Sussex – whose schools received hundreds of pounds per pupil less than the national average.
The stress on budgets had left heads struggling to keep up with pay and pension requirements as well as the cost of employing suitable staff and even replacing basic equipment such as books and pencils.
To take part in the consultation, log on to consult.education.gov.uk .
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