Suffolk: County’s schools’ low funding exposed
09:00 20 December 2012
WHILE Suffolk’s schools fell to near the bottom of the national league table for Key Stage Two SATs results, the county also sits in the lower reaches of another league table – for funding from Government.
The county has around £4,700 a pupil per year to spend – more than £3,000 less per pupil than in some London boroughs which have produced better results.
The highest spending per pupil in England in 2011 was in the London borough of Tower Hamlets which spent more than £8,000 per pupil.
One school chair of governors in Suffolk said: “The difference is significant when you compare the spending on pupils here with the spending on pupils in those authorities which are now much higher up the league table.”
His comments were backed up by Suffolk NUT spokesman Graham White who said the county council was wasting money on issues such as schools reorganisation.
He said: “The county is wasting £10million a year on redundancies when it should be investing in bringing down the pupil/teacher ratio in schools and the adult/teacher ratio generally.”
Suffolk councillor with responsibility for children and young people Graham Newman said the money for schools came directly from the government – the authority did not set school budgets.
Suffolk is in the bottom 25% for funding across the English local authorities.
However Mr Newman pointed out that funding was not the overwhelming issue – Cambridgeshire has less to spend per student and its results are considerably better than Suffolk.
He said: “It would be good to have more funding, but it is not as simple a matter as some seem to think.
“We have to ensure that the resources we have are used most effectively. Across the county you can see where schools with the same resources have different results.”
Primary schools in some relatively deprived areas of Ipswich – like Morland, St Helens, and Springfield Junior – had very good results while neighbouring schools had much lower results.
Mr Newman said the council was attempting to bring in at least £3million by persuading more eligible families to claim free school meals.
Those on free school meals trigger the “pupil premium” for those who need extra support – currently £600 a year and due to increase to £900 a year next year.
Mr Newman said: “We estimate there are currently 5,000 students who are eligible for free school meals in Suffolk, but don’t claim for it.
“We have made it much easier for them, and removed any stigma that might have been attached to this in the past.
“If all 5,000 people eligible claimed, there would be an extra £3million that would go into giving more help to those children who most need it – and if the premium goes up next year it will rise to £4.5million. That could make quite a difference.”