Spotlight on Cumbria in rethink over distribution of cash for education (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Spotlight on Cumbria in rethink over distribution of cash for education
CUMBRIA is being used as a case study in a Government review into how schools in England and Wales are allocated funding.
The Department for Education launched the exercise this week after proposals unveiled last autumn to shake up the funding system sparked an outcry among the county’s head teachers, councillors and MPs.
The shake-up was aimed at giving all schools similar amounts of cash in a move designed to make the funding system fairer and more consistent across the country.
But critics voiced concern that this meant rural areas with more schools, particularly larger ones, would lose out, as they would receive the same as small primary schools.
The changed rules originally forced Cumbria County Council to propose giving each school — regardless of their size — a lump sum of £70,000, meaning some head teachers stood to lose up to 30 per cent of their allocation.
It was only when the scale of the proposed budget reductions became apparent that the Government agreed to extend what it terms the ‘minimum funding guarantee’.
In October, Schools Minister David Laws said that none of the county’s schools would be put in danger, and that 32 head teachers facing cuts of up to a third of their budgets would not lose more than 1.5 per cent.
And he said the existing funding arrangements, which include greater flexibility for Cumbria County Council in handing out cash, would continue until at least 2015.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, who fought the plan, said: “The reason why it was is difficult for Cumbria is we have more smaller schools than most other counties. The more smaller schools you have, the more money you have to take from the bigger schools.
“While there’s no danger that Queen Katherine or Dallam schools would ever close, the county council would have to take a lot of money off them to fund the smaller schools so we’re asking the Government to accept that Cumbria deserves a different settlement.”
The review will look at the impact the proposals would have had on the budgets of more than 30 Cumbrian schools — some of which faced potential closure.
But Mr Farron added: “We’re asking for the Goverment to compensate for the fact that we have so many more schools because we are rural.”
The review is expected to take around two months to complete.