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Funding for Schools in Wokingham

by Prue Bray on 1 December, 2015

Wokingham Borough’s schools receive the lowest level of funding from the government in the country.   £4151 per pupil.

For years they have managed to deliver high quality education while juggling the money to make sure they have good teachers and support staff and enough teaching materials, and that the condition of the buildings doesn’t deteriorate too far.

But as money has got tighter and tighter, the juggling has got harder and harder, and many local schools feel that they are being squeezed beyond what they can cope with without affecting the education of our children.

That’s why earlier this year I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education to ask for something to be done to make school funding fairer.

I have no problem with providing extra money for schools in deprived areas or which have significant numbers of pupils who need more help to progress.  But I do have a problem when funding gets so out of kilter that Wokingham schools are seriously considering having to make staff redundant in order to balance the books.

Why is it that Windsor & Maidenhead – a very similar area to Wokingham, and similarly funded with regard to the rest of council services – gets £300 PER PUPIL more than Wokingham?  In a one-form entry primary school that’s equivalent to £60,000 – or a teacher and a support assistant.  Bizarrely, that’s a few pounds more per pupil than Reading – but nearly £200 more than Bracknell.

It makes no sense at all.  Why is it like this? Because the funding is based on historical levels of funding before the current formula was introduced more than it is based on looking at the minimum cost of running a school, or a rational calculation what’s required to deal with differing levels of need.

When I wrote to the Secretary of State I got a reply back from a junior minister, which said basically that the government were thinking about what to do.  At least they acknowledged the current method of calculating funding was flawed.   Last week we got more news:  an announcement that a different system will be introduced in a couple of years.  That is likely to be a good thing for Wokingham.  Areas which get a lot of money are going to protest, because they are bound to lose out.  But currently Nottinghamshire schools get over £1000 per pupil more than schools in Wokingham.  Would it really damage them so much if the gap was £750 instead?

The difficulty remaining is that funding won’t change in time for next year.  That may be too late for some schools.  All of them do a terrific job, and that is reflected in the number of Wokingham schools rated “good” by Ofsted.  But there comes a point at which the pips really do being to squeak – and some schools may already have reached it.

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