The Sheffield Telegraph’s Secret School: Funding blueprint is unfair and will send school system backwards

Chancellor Philip Hammond is studying tax-raising moves.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is studying tax-raising moves.

The new national funding formula is going to leave most schools across the country experiencing real-term losses and in Sheffield governing bodies are already preparing to make large numbers of teaching assistants and teachers redundant.

Sheffield has been underfunded for far too long when compared with similar places such as Liverpool, and although our city is seeing a small increase in overall funding from 2018, the picture is far from rosy.

For a start, not all schools in the city will see any of the extra cash. Many will be a lot worse off. And to make up for inflation and poor historical funding, the Government needs to plough a lot more money into Sheffield schools to make ends meet - a lot more.

As always, the devil is in the detail and what’s going to happen from 2018 needs your examination this week, because the consultation on the new funding formula comes to an end on March 22.

I’ve spoken to some senior leaders at Sheffield’s secondary schools who see the increase in funding as a great thing. Their school is going to benefit, it’s long overdue and a positive thing for Sheffield, they say. Secondary schools in the city will get more cash as a result of the funding formula; all but one of them is going to see an increase in their budget, with one school benefiting by nearly 15 per cent - at least before the ‘real-term’ impact is considered, which means most schools suffer.

But it’s a completely different picture when you look at primary schools.

Well over 60 primary schools in our city are going to have their budget slashed in 2018 – by up to £35,000. This may not seem much to secondary school leaders handling budgets of millions, but to a small school the resulting loss of two or three teaching assistants can be devastating.

Teaching assistants do such a valuable job, but they will be the first to go.

There are areas of this city where the children are disadvantaged and, of course, resources should be increased there to give the local children a good start in life. Nobody is arguing with that.

But the results of this funding formula appear to single out primary schools: primary schools in different areas of the city, primary schools that already have budget deficits, primary schools that feed into secondary schools getting a budget increase.

It’s a complicated picture – there are far too many figures for Sheffield schools to go into in this column. So, here’s what you need to do: get yourself to www.consult.education.gov.uk and in the search bar type in ‘funding formula’. Select the consultation about the funding formula and you’ll then get the opportunity to view a massive spreadsheet that lets you look at the results for all Sheffield schools. Once you’ve found the proposals for your locality, you can fill in the survey and tell the government what you think.

And if you want some really scary figures, take a look at the NUT website – there you will find an interactive map showing what the real terms gain or loss is for each school in the city and how many staff may be lost as a result.

This all stems from a government hellbent on ruining our precious public services in the name of a political ideology that favours the rich.

The Government – which has privatised education as much as is possible, without putting a McDonalds and Starbucks in every reception – may talk the talk about having world-class schools but certainly does not walk the walk. Chancellor Phillip Hammond had a golden opportunity to address the crisis in schools during the budget last week, but despite calls for him to stop schools losing money under the new funding formula and improve state school buildings, he did neither.

What he did do was allocate £320 million for a new round of Free Schools – the educational equivalent of a chocolate teapot – and the suspicion is that most of these will be grammar schools.

And right there – on budget day – you see this Government for what it really is. Rather than investing in existing state schools to ensure their buildings are up to scratch and they don’t have to make teaching assistants redundant, they are pushing their grammar school agenda that will benefit the well-off living in leafy areas.

If the Government has £60bn in a war chest to deal with the Brexit debacle they are overseeing and has £55bn to squander on an HS2 project that few need or want, you’d think they could spend a fraction of that to ensure education and health have the money they need.

But this chancellor is a millionaire. He has no idea how ordinary people live, no idea of the strains a Sheffield primary school faces in the winter when it needs windows and lights replacing, no idea how badly a small school will be hit by losing three teaching assistants and no idea what it’s like for a working single mum I know who, having paid to train as a teaching assistant, has now been told her job is at risk.

We are talking about peanuts in the big scheme of things, Mr Hammond. But without the additional money, how do you propose to give all children in the UK’s cities the education they deserve?

So now is the time to take part in the consultation and send a message to the Government.

A funding formula that makes teachers and teaching assistants redundant is far from fair and will send education in this country backwards.

n You can get involved by following our Twitter account @Sheff_Schools and sharing your stories. If you want to remain anonymous, send a direct message to the same account. You can also write to Telegraph Education, Sheffield Telegraph, York Street, Sheffield, S1 1PU, or telegraph@jpress.co.uk via email.