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Chief: Suffolk children 'worth less' under school funding plan

PUBLISHED: 09:17 02 May 2018

Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for education, Gordon Jones, said he would continue to fight for fairer funding. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for education, Gordon Jones, said he would continue to fight for fairer funding. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

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A promise to continue the fight for fairer pupil funding for Suffolk has been issued by an education chief, who has described the system as valuing the county's children "less than in other parts of the country".

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, said that while the gap between the highest and lowest funded authorities had narrowed, more needed to be done.

Mr Jones, whose background is as a school governor, said: “That’s one of the reasons why I came into being a councillor – because I thought it was unfair that some people in Westminster thought children in Suffolk were worth less than other parts of the country. I will continue to fight for a bigger slice of the cake.”

Latest per pupil funding figures from the Department for Education revealed that average spend per pupil in Suffolk was £4,741 two years ago – below the £4,972 national average, and well below figures seen in the likes of London where per pupil funding was in the five, six, seven and eight thousand pound brackets.

In mainland Britain, youngsters in North East Lincolnshire were the highest outside of London with £8,722 per pupil – almost twice as much as Suffolk.

The county council has joined the F40 collective – a group of the 41 lowest funded councils for education in the country which lobbies for fairer funding.

Reforms to funding which included an additional £1.3billion investment were announced last September, which then education secretary Justine Greening said would be fairer and would consider schools’ individual needs, but the F40 group said the changes did not tackle the disparity.

Doug Allen, secretariat for the F40 group, said: “The £1.3bn added on April 1 is a good step in the right direction but it misses one F for fairness.

“That’s because there are greater protections for schools that are better off and have been for many, many years.

“It’s a missed opportunity in many respects.”

He said that funding based on historic figures previously meant authorities such as Suffolk were still suffering today.

He added: “The national fair funding formula is an attempt to create a formula fairer across the board but it failed to redistribute from the better off to the poorer.

“We will keep on fighting to put the fair into the formula.”

Department for Education response

The Department for Education said the new fair funding formula meant Suffolk would see a 1.9 per cent increase under the first year of the framework.

A spokeswoman from the DfE added: “There is more money going into our schools than ever before.

“No school will lose funding as a result of our fairer formula and by 2020, core school funding will rise to a record £43.5billion – 50pc more per pupil in real terms than in 2000.”

Justine Greening’s statement on the new formula in September said that it was an “historic reform” and added: “It means, for the first time, the resources that the government is investing in our schools will be distributed according to a formula based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country.

“Addressing these simple but damaging inequalities will represent the biggest improvement in the school funding system for decades.”

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