Independent County Councillor, Claire Wright, writes (picture: Seaton Primary School):Last week every Devon County Councillor received a letter from the Devon Association of Primary Headteachers and the Devon Association of Secondary Heads (DAPH and DASH).
The message is depressingly familiar. And simply cements my long held belief that this government is steadily dismantling public services and instead squandering that money in tax breaks for the wealthy, government consultants, a third runway at Heathrow, a war in Syria and many more things that shouldn’t remotely be a government priority.
Like many other public services in Devon, including health and social care, education in Devon gets a rough deal in the government funding formula. It is near the very bottom of the UK league table on per pupil funding, short by over £290 a head, which is equivalent to a £25.5m shortfall across the county’s schools.
Devon County Council has lobbied central government on this issue for a very long time, unfortunately with very little effect.
Last year, there was an unexpected flurry of activity among Devon Conservative MPs, who were suddenly coincidentally apparently pushing at an open door. The outcome was the government agreed to introduce a new and fairer funding formula for schools.
Unfortunately and sadly, the government has backtracked on its promise to do this by April 2017. It has been delayed by one year, leaving schools, especially those in our county, in limbo and increasingly desperate for funds.
To make matters worse, new education initiatives have been introduced by central government BUT without any extra funding to help schools cope. These include:
– young people with special educational needs now being able to remain in education until 25
– the removal of the education services grant from next year
– extensive house building across the county
– increases in staffing costs, including the living wage, pensions, and national insurance contributions
– the introduction of the apprenticeship levy from next April, resulting in a bill for Devon County Council run schools of £424,000
The ongoing financial situation for Devon schools means that 26 schools across the county are now predicting a deficit at the end of this financial year.
The letter, which is signed by Paul Walker (DAPH) and Matthew Shanks (DASH), paints a bleak picture. It states: “…. Schools have financially now reached a real crisis point in the immediate future.
… “urgent necessity to take some very undesirable as well as far-reaching decisions to reduce costs in order to balance the finite resources available.
“Sadly, the implications of these decisions will undoubtedly impact upon the children in our care, including those from some of our most vulnerable families, and these will ultimately manifest further into the wider community.”
The letter urges local councillors to act on their behalf by lobbying education ministers to implement an urgent solution to “mitigate the impact of the present crisis.”
I will be writing to my own MP, Hugo Swire about this, but PLEASE, wherever you are reading this in Devon, write to your own MP and urge them to lobby ministers for more funding for our schools and retain the excellent education that our children deserve.