Suffolk’s small schools face cuts under new funding formula, NUT claims

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Suffolk schools will face cuts in their income under the Government’s proposed National Funding Formula (NFF), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) claims.

NUT figures suggest the new formula will hit small rural schools and those in deprived areas hardest, and warns of fears for the viability of some small schools.

By 2019/20, the union predicts real-terms cuts of up to 20 per cent per pupil, compared with 2015/16, with only three schools in Suffolk likely to get small rises, although Suffolk County Council says only 56 will suffer cuts.

Andrew Barsley, of the NUT’s campaign team who compiled the figures, said Suffolk sets a funding formula “sympathetic” to rural schools in a way the NFF is not.

“Because you’re putting a one-size-fits-all formula in place you get local rural schools clobbered at one end and on the other side it’s the school with high levels of deprivation,” he said. “They’re doing it at the same time as cutting funding – how are you supposed to manage that?”

He feared it would hit the viability of some small schools and added: “If society thinks these rural schools are too expensive, fair enough, but doing it under the guise of a formula is questionable.”

Sue Cook, Suffolk County Council’s director for children and young people, said: “Whilst there is concern about the sustainability of smaller rural schools, it is important to note it is not exclusively these schools.

“Fifty-six schools in Suffolk have been identified as facing a reduction in funding following the reform and whilst some of these are small rural schools, many are larger primaries in urban areas.”

She added: “Whilst Suffolk will see an increase, it will be less than four per cent overall which will be phased in over several years.

“In real terms, Suffolk’s schools will be lower funded than five years ago.”

The Suffolk Headteachers’ Association has joined with 13 other counties to highlight what it sees as the unfairness of the proposed NFF by encouraging heads to sign a letter to their local MP.

Richard Thomas, executive officer, said heads have long complained the existing formula left some areas, including Suffolk, with poorer funding than similar areas.

He added: “The Government proposed a new fairer funding system in 2013, but when we saw the proposed formula in late 2016, we knew that this was a complete U-turn.

“It was not new and was not fair, and the Government had reneged on its promises.”

The Department for Education says Government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, and says it is now at a record high of more than £40 billion, which will rise with pupil numbers to £42 billion by 2019-20.

A spokeswoman added: “The system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated.

“We are going to end the historic post code lottery in school funding and under the proposed NFF, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.

“In Suffolk, school funding would go up by 2.7 per cent, by over £10 million, if the proposed new funding formula were implemented.”