Unfair system for Devon schools

Joseph Bulmer

THE GOVERNMENT has recognised the unfair system for funding Devon schools and has pledged to bring in a better process for distributing grants.

Responding to a question from Central Devon MP Mel Stride during education questions in the House of Commons, schools minister Nick Gibb MP said: “We recognise that the school funding system is currently unfair, opaque and illogical.

“A number of local authorities believe that they are not funded correctly. We will consider that over the longer term to address that unfairness.”

Mr Stride took the opportunity during questions to the minister to raise the ongoing issue of Devon receiving considerably less per pupil than many urban authorities.

The county is the fourth worst-funded area in England as councils in urban areas receive more funding due to a formula used by the Government.

Devon is part of the F40 group of councils which are pushing for a fairer system in funding and Mr Stride is supporting their campaign for a better system.

He asked the minister to recognise that Devon had suffered historically from a lower dedicated schools grant than other parts of the country and wanted confirmation that the Government was looking closely at per-pupil funding to give schools in a fairer deal in the future.

Mr Gibb recognised the unfairness of the current system and said the Government was looking at changes in the future, particularly to help those authorities in the F40 group.

He added: “My Hon. Friend will be aware that last Monday (December 13) we announced the school funding settlement for 2011-12. The overall schools budget is being maintained at a flat cash per pupil rate so that as pupil numbers rise, the overall budget rises.

“In Devon, the dedicated schools grant is �4,602 per pupil and the capital amount is �24.6 million for 2011-12.”

The Government is also bringing in a pupil premium, which will be worth �625 million next year, and will provide schools with �430 for every pupil who is known to be eligible for free school meals. Devon has around 96,000 children and young people in the county’s education sector, which receives much less than the average English funding.