THE county council has weighed into the row over the ‘unfair’ funding for schools in West Sussex.
As reported previously, secondary schools in the Observer area have joined others from all over the country in signing a letter to MPs calling for a change in the ‘outdated’ funding system.
West Sussex is the lowest-funded county council and the fourth-lowest-funded local authority nationally.
West Sussex County Council cabinet member for education and skills, Jeremy Hunt, has written to the then secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, expressing his serious concerns.
The letter states that ‘if West Sussex was funded at the average SBUF (Schools Block Unit of Funding) for all county councils, our schools would have received an additional £15.1m.
“If we were funded at the SBUF for our statistical neighbours, schools would have received an additional £11.8m. This gap in provision is not fair funding’.
The letter goes on to say that the county council ‘has not been able to fund, in full, the unavoidable cost pressures in schools in 2015/16’ and that schools were now considering ‘a range of options to set balanced budgets’.
It adds that unless there is a ‘significant change’ in the near future, the county council and its schools face some ‘very tough decisions’.
Cllr Hunt added: “The county council overall is having to reduce its budgets by £68m by 2017/18 in light of reduced government funding so there is simply no capacity for us to meet this shortfall.
“I am now calling on the next government to urgently address this unfair distribution of funding and I very much hope that whoever is the new minister will accept my invitation to meet and discuss this issue in more detail.
“I would however like to add that, despite this low level of funding, we are by no means one of the worst performing authorities. “Although our results are currently around national average, we obviously aspire to be a high performing county and we have a clear strategic commitment to achieve this.”
The county council is also facing the challenge of having to provide hundreds of additional school places in the coming years because of an unprecedented growth in pupil numbers, which is also creating pressure on budgets.