Councillor James McInnes, who chairs the national campaign for fair education funding, f40, has written to the new Education Secretary Nadhim Sahawi urging him to fight for greater investment in schools in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
And Mr McInnes has also written to the Prime Minister calling on him and Mr Sahawi to resolve long-standing issues over funding for the nation’s most vulnerable children with special educational needs.
It comes as new figures show every pupil in a Devon school gets £223 less in government funding than the national average.
Devon currently receives £5,145 per pupil compared to the England average of £5,368.
f40 is the campaign group for the 40 worst funded education authorities in the country and in his letter Mr McInnes says the pandemic has meant children’s education has been badly disrupted.
Cllr McInnes said:
“We believe that in years to come we will be judged on how well we supported our children and how we invested in our schools so it’s vital that we act now to prevent irrevocable long-term damage.
“We welcome the additional funding already provided. However more needs to be done to enable schools to provide extra support and learning to help pupils recover academically and emotionally from the pandemic which has placed greater stress on already tight budgets.
“For a number of years education funding has not kept pace with inflation, while the demands on schools and teachers have grown rapidly. In real terms, school funding is at 2010 levels. Education requires a substantial uplift to ensure schools are able to provide quality teaching for all.
“While the government is attempting to level up funding, the process is very slow and schools in some areas continue to receive far less funding than schools in other areas as many of the historic inequalities continue to be locked in.
“Many large rural communities and ‘shire’ local authorities still receive inequitably less funding, despite having sizeable pockets of deprivation. The basic entitlement should be enough to run a school, before extra money is added on for deprivation and higher area living costs.
“Early Years has become a major concern throughout the pandemic, with the future of many providers hanging in the balance. Funding for free entitlement has received some support but many providers have lost private parental income. The pandemic has also impacted on the readiness of young children to learn. Without additional funding, the effects will be felt for many years to come.”
Mr McInnes also highlights the severe pressure which many councils are under in spending on children with special educational needs. He said:
“This continues to be a major concern. The number of children with special educational needs, and their complexity of need, continues to grow, with demand far outstripping budgets.
“While we appreciate the increase in SEND funding during the last two or three years, significant additional funding is required for both mainstream and special schools. We urge the government to publish the long-overdue SEND review and to overhaul the SEND system to ensure it is fit for purpose.”
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, who took over as Cabinet member for children’s services and schools earlier this year, is also a member of f40.
Cllr Leadbetter said:
“Over the coming days, leading up to the Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review, we will hear from all the spending departments about how they need more money.
“The Chancellor will, of course, be seeking to recoup some of the billions of pounds he has spent on the pandemic but it is vital that we invest in our children and their education because the future of our country depends on them achieving their potential.
”I am completely behind this appeal to the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary to make spending on our children and their education a top priority.”