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Funding change 'will hurt church schools'
A FUNDING shake-up could have a ‘devastating effect’ on Cumbria’s church schools, the Diocese of Carlisle has warned.
As the Gazette revealed last month, some head teachers face losing nearly a third of their budgets when a new Government national funding formula comes into force.
It sets out how education authorities can allocate cash to schools in a move designed to create a more consistent and fairer system.
But the flexibility that counties like Cumbria have to protect rural schools has been scrapped in the changes, set to take full effect from 2015.
Michael Mill, the Diocese of Carlisle’s director of education, said: “The Government seems to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach in the formula, which isn’t flexible enough to take account of the circumstances of a county like Cumbria. We don’t think it’s right that money is being taken away from deprived areas.”
Cumbria County Council was previously able to use an ‘additional funding allowance’ to support small schools.
However, now, it will need to settle on a single payment for every school – regardless of their size – of up £200,000.
Using a model under the new guidelines, the council is consulting on plans to award lump sums of £70,000 to each school as it believes this figure will be less harmful overall.
While some will be left better off because of the changes, others stand to lose out.
Church of England schools in South Lakeland losing up to six per cent of their budgets include Dent, Grasmere and Beetham, while Crosthwaite School could see a 13 per cent cut in its allocation.
“Obviously, it’s going to have a big impact,” said Mr Mill. “You can’t make judgements about whether a school is going to close but, clearly, there are issues that need to be addressed.”
Mr Mill added that rural schools played an important role in local life, explaining: “If you have families at local schools, they will meet at school and do things at school. They can be the glue that holds a community together.”
Meanwhile, council leader Eddie Martin has accused Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron of needlessly worrying parents by suggesting 32 Cumbrian schools could shut under the changes.
Coun Martin said: “Reports that numerous schools will close are wide of the mark at this stage, are unhelpful and risk panicking parents.”
Mr Farron said: “We need to work together to save schools, we haven’t got time for petty squabbling on this.”
The council’s Cabinet must decide how the new rules will be applied here by the end of October.