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Article for the News & Crier: Our fight for fairer schools funding goes to the very top

17th June 2013

Last week I organised a meeting at the Department for Education with David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools. Local Conservative MPs - Andrew Lansley, Sir Jim Paice, Shailesh Vara and Steve Barclay joined me in calling for Cambridgeshire to receive an increased and fairer funding settlement for its schools.

Following the publication of the most recent grant figures, Cambridgeshire will receive the lowest school block funding per pupil (£3950) out of all of the 151 local Authorities. The difference per pupil level of funding means, for example, that a child in neighbouring Peterborough will generate £500 more funding than a child in Cambridgeshire. This represents the cost of around six teachers per primary school at average pay levels. Head teachers from schools across my constituency have been telling me that many of them have been on the cusp of having to let teachers go unless the position is improved.

If Cambridgeshire was funded at the England average, this would generate additional funding of some £44 million for Cambridgeshire schools. With my County colleagues I highlighted to the Minister the unfairness of the current funding formula and gave examples of hardship that is resulting in local schools. We also requested that the review of the funding formula, previously promised by the government, should be moved forward to implementation as soon as possible.

This government clearly acknowledges that the current system of allocation, inherited from the previous government, is very unfair, imbalanced and is one that cannot be defended. I am pleased to note that the Minister responded positively and all of these points were reiterated by him during our meeting. However, he also cautioned that his ability to make changes would be related to the outcome of the overall government spending review towards the end of June.

I was very pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge, so strongly, that the current system is unfair and I believe that he now has a better understanding how particularly poorly the current system works for Cambridgeshire. Clearly, the next few weeks are important ones, in terms of prioritisation of funding allocation, with the people at the top and so I and my colleagues have also written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister expressing our jointly held concerns for the funding of Cambridgeshire schools. In this letter we have pointed out that Cambridgeshire is the worst affected nationally but that this will also be a common situation across large parts of the country and that June’s spending review will be the last chance to change the funding system and introduce a fair National Funding Formula that will be in place for 2015/16.

I would encourage anyone else who feels strongly on this to also write to the Chancellor urging him to act on the very important issue of fairer funding for our local schools.

On Friday of last week I also attended the Sainsburys School Games Plus Festival at St Ivo Outdoor Leisure Centre, St Ives. The Plus Festival is an opportunity for young people with disabilities to participate in competitive sport across a variety of disciplines. Organiser ‘Living Sport’ is part of the County Sports Partnerships Network, one of 49 County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) across England. Living Sport was formed in 2006 to raise the profile, and engagement, of sport and to increase community participation.

Living Sport are responsible for delivering a number of Olympic legacy initiatives including Sportivate, Sport Makers and School Games and are looking for volunteers aged 11 to 25 to get involved with the committee and help shape the participation and delivery of competitive sport in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Having seen the success of this one event for myself I believe that the legacy of sport will be secured by encouraging more people to take part in initiatives such as this, to support inclusive sport and enjoy participation at every level.


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