Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, has told Sutton schools they can deal with funding problems by cutting their energy bills.
The comment follows a letter from the Leader of the Council to the Government over the crisis in funding for Sutton schools. Sutton councillors discussed the issue at a meeting in January and agreed to urge the Government to take drastic action to increase funding for schools.
In his reply, the Secretary of State acknowledged that schools are struggling and are being asked to do more but claimed there is more funding than ever going into schools and that the new National Funding Formula (NFF) has been introduced to provide a fairer funding system for all schools.
The response fails to take into account though the rise in pupil numbers and increased staff salary costs, pension contributions and the apprentice levy. A 2018 report by the Institute for Financial Studies (IFS) highlighted there has been a real-term cut of 8% in schools funding.
The response also sets out the welcome additional funding provided for Sutton and other boroughs for special education needs and disabilities (SEND). The amounts allocated though do not begin to address the long-term issue of rising demand for SEND services. Sutton Liberal Democrats have urged the Government to address the funding crisis properly in its upcoming spending review.
Cllr Jenny Batt, Lead Member for Education in Sutton, commenting on the response said: ‘’Yet again, this Conservative government has failed to adequately address schools’ concerns and to suggest that they turn off a few lights to save money is frankly insulting.
“We know that the biggest cost pressures for schools are staff salaries and pensions so saving a few pounds on energy bills will make little difference.
“It is right that our hard-working teachers and staff are rewarded with pay increases, but these must be fully funded by the Government and not be passed down to already cash-strapped Sutton schools.’’
Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, who has recently been leading a campaign to address funding issues in local schools stated:
"We know that education spending for children up to the age of 16 was protected in real terms under the Coalition government and was then cut in real terms from 2015-17. Schools in Carshalton and Wallington are struggling financially and many have already called on parents and carers to lobby their MPs to address these issues. What we need from Government is real cash, not money-saving ideas which most schools implemented years ago.”
Tom Brake has started a petition to stop school cuts which has already been signed by over 1,400 people. The petition can be found here https://www.tombrake.co.uk/schools