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Fairer Funding?

David Cameron’s election promise to maintain funding to our schools grabbed the headlines and no doubt contributed to an overwhelming victory at the polls. It’s only now that we’re starting to understand what ‘maintaining’ looks like. At Highgate Primary School we’ve just received our budget for the next financial year, and true to Mr Cameron’s promise, we have exactly the same amount of money coming in as we did last year. Hooray – the school budget has been maintained. Well done Dave. What you probably didn’t hear about was the increases in staffing costs, pension contributions, national insurance payments and increases in the cost of everything we buy. Balancing a school budget these days is quite a challenge, and things are set to get worse.

The ‘fairer’ National Funding Formula, scheduled to be introduced next year, will see a redistribution of school funding across the country. Effectively this will mean that money previously allocated to inner city schools, will be redirected to schools in non-urban areas. Under the current proposals, Haringey schools are set to see a reduction of more that £10 million pounds a year. It’s impossible to know what the impact of this will be in terms of provision, but it’s worth noting the connection between funding and pupil attainment. It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s the well-funded London schools that have been so incredibly successful over the last decade.

I was in a meeting of local headteachers this week in which school funding was discussed and the mood was one of significant concern. The fact of the matter is that future reductions in funding will mean cuts to the education schools can provide. All sorts of suggestions were made, but what is clear is that balancing a budget in the future is going to take more than reducing the photocopying bill.

It was interesting to note that one of the ideas that schools are considering is creating an expectation that parents will contribute to school funding. This is already happening at our local secondary school and is something that church schools have been doing for years through covenants – and maybe this has some merit. After all, over the course of eight years from Nursery to Year 6, a place at Highgate Primary is around £120,000 cheaper than a place at one of the excellent schools up the road and that’s only for one child. But there is a significant principle at stake – state education should be funded by the state, and government proposals to reduce funding should be challenged. Of course I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot here – fundraising absolutely has its place, but this is to enrich our children’s experience at school, rather than fund the essentials.

So what is the best way to challenge these proposals? I think the simple answer is to get writing. It may seem like a bit of an effort to write a personal letter to Theresa May, Justine Greening or Philip Hammond, but the cost of not doing so will be much greater. Please do support the school by putting pen to paper and get involved in the local campaign to protect school funding. Collectively we do have the power to make a difference but only if we make the effort to make our voices heard.

William Dean