Column: Funding needs to be allocated fairly to schools across all parts of the city

Somewhere along the line, somebody in charge of the new funding formula for Sheffield schools has dropped the ball.

Tuesday, 8th May 2018, 12:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th May 2018, 12:21 pm
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I’m not sure where along the chain of command this took place or whether it was down to an oversight or incompetence, but mistakes have been made and somebody needs to clean it up before the funding of Sheffield’s schools become even more polarised.

For many years, Sheffield schools have been chronically underfunded when compared to other core cities in England.

The government sees fit to give more money to school pupils in other northern cities than it does to our children, and this has undoubtedly had a big impact on what Sheffield’s teachers can deliver. It has dented the life chances of this city’s kids.

There has been much talk about the new national funding formula for schools and, indeed, much hope from many headteachers that it may be the answer to their ever-increasing budgetary problems.

While it is warmly welcomed that Sheffield is going to get more money over the next few years, what is not so great is the news that the city will still be the poor relations of other comparable cities.

The new funding formula will not create a level playing field for children across the country. But what is particularly chilling about the funding changes to Sheffield’s schools is that not every school in the city will benefit.

On paper, the news is pleasing as Sheffield is to get an additional £20 million to split between its schools, the Department for Education tell us.

You would think that the schools most in need and those in deprived areas would get most, but that all schools across the city would have some reason to throw their caps in the air and let out a shriek.

The reality is that some schools are going to lose out on a small fortune thanks to whoever has over-thought how Sheffield’s new money is going to be dished out.

The Department for Education and Sheffield Council need to take a long hard look at these projections and do something about it before we head down this ill-thought- out road.

It simply cannot be right that large secondary schools will get £100,000s extra, while small primaries are going to have to make staff redundant because of cuts to their budget under the new formula.

How can the powers that be justify a situation where a city gets millions of pounds extra to fund schools and still there are governing bodies meeting to decide who is going to get the chop?

I spoke to two headteachers this week and they painted a very different picture of Sheffield’s so- called funding increase, and it just points out how badly managed the distribution has been.

The first headteacher was in charge of one of the city’s biggest secondary schools and they are literally rubbing their hands.

They have been struggling to balance budgets over recent years and now their headache will come to an end - for now, at least - because of the huge injection of cash the school will get. It’s enough to fund new staff and really make a difference.

The second headteacher I spent time with was in charge of a primary school. They are one of the many that will see their overall budget fall over the two years that the new formula is going to be introduced.

They have been extremely upset at the projected reduction, and were moved to tears over the issue.

The only way they would be able to balance the books in two years’ time is to lose staff, and this goes against their entire educational ethos. They are looking at leaving the job instead of presiding over such poorly managed carnage.

The dam wall serving education in this country has a huge hole in it and water is gushing out at an alarming rate. This will patch up a small section of the dam, but far more is needed to stop damage being done to our society.

But for now, we just need somebody to sit down and allocate the new money in a way that doesn’t make people redundant.