County to spend an extra £800,000 on improving schools

Lisa Chambers

Lisa Chambers - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is to put an extra £800,000 towards the Raising the Bar project to improve schools across the county.

The new cash injection was approved at yesterday’s meeting of the county council’s cabinet in response to an Ofsted inspection into its education department earlier this year.

However, the move was described as inadequate by opposition councillors, who pointed out that the Children and Young People’s (CYP) service directorate had underspent significantly last year.

The cabinet heard that the new money would be spent on supporting schools and helping them to reach the county’s target of ensuring all Suffolk’s schools are rated “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted within the next 18 months. Cabinet member for education Lisa Chambers said the £800,000 was new money for the project, and was on top of the £2.4million pledged for Raising the Bar when it was launched two years ago.

So far the project has spent £968,000 on trying to improve educational standards. The remaining £1.4m is available to spend on future projects over the next three years.

Liberal Democrat David Busby said that while the £800,000 sounded a significant figure, the CYP budget had been underspent by £1.6m during the 2014/15 financial year.

He said: “Aren’t we on another planet here? We’re talking about putting in an extra £800,000 but the department underspent by twice that amount last year!”

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Mrs Chambers said the underspend was not just for schools or the Raising the Bar project – it was across the department which also includes social services for young people.

Labour’s education spokeswoman Sonia Barker was anxious to establish that the £800,000 was in addition to the original £2.4m budget.

Once she had that assurance she said that the money was a long way short of the amount needed – Suffolk schools were still considerably under-funded in comparison with those in Hackney.

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