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It’s time to smooth out disparities

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Jo Churchill MP
Jo Churchill MP

Everyone can agree that we want to deliver a world-class education system that gives our young people the chance to make the most of their talents and abilities, no matter what their start in life.

Yet, as it stands, the current schools funding system fails to deliver.

In an effort to address this, the Government is currently consulting for a second time on a new national funding formula.

I have argued, however, that, for our Suffolk schools and our children, this new system does not go far enough.

Presently, the school funding system is unfair and outdated, creating inconsistencies over time which have led to schools, with similar characteristics, experiencing funding disparities of up to 100 per cent.

In Suffolk’s case, our schools are currently in the lowest 20 per cent to receive a fair funding package; allocated £4,371 per school compared to the national average of £4,636.

Although a small amount, this disadvantage per pupil puts Suffolk schools on the back foot.

While Suffolk schools now receive 94 per cent of the average schools funding per pupil, under the new national funding formula currently being considered, Suffolk’s funding per pupil would still only be 96 per cent of the average.

Despite this slight improvement, I have argued that this is still not fair funding for pupils in my constituency.

In particular, I have argued that this continued discrepancy will still unintentionally impact rural areas the hardest.

For, while the Government has committed to delivering on rural challenges by making rural sparsity a factor, I would argue that the weighting of the various measures considered within the new funding allocation still work against rural areas.

Furthermore, the sheer complexity of the system makes it hard for schools and local authorities to hold the Government accountable for funding.

Ultimately, this, combined with other rural challenges of delivering health and transport services, as well as a recent hit to rural business rates, makes the rural agenda increasingly more difficult to deliver, and rural residents ever more frustrated.

That is why, on behalf of my schools, I called on the Government to do more to deliver fairer funding.

Since being elected, the funding challenges to my Bury St Edmunds constituency schools has been something I have campaigned against and, as a member of F40 – a group representing the lowest funded local authorities – I have continuously called for an end to these disadvantages.

While I acknowledge that, with every county different, a homogenous national funding formula will always struggle to deliver a fair system, I believe far more can be done to smooth out the disparities.

For children in metropolitan areas do not deserve better life chances; they deserve the same life chances as our children.

-- Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket