School funding figures 'worrying'
PRIMARY and secondary school pupils in Suffolk are being short-changed by the Government – and the official figures just published have been branded "worrying" by a union leader in the countyWith investment in public services such as education likely to be one of the key campaign battles in the General Election, spending details released by Whitehall show that pupils aged between 11 and 15 in the county receive £4,070 a year in grants, nearly £400 less than the national average.
PRIMARY and secondary school pupils in Suffolk are being short-changed by the Government - and the official figures just published have been branded "worrying" by a union leader in the county
With investment in public services such as education likely to be one of the key campaign battles in the General Election, spending details released by Whitehall show that pupils aged between 11 and 15 in the county receive £4,070 a year in grants, nearly £400 less than the national average.
Only 11 of England's 148 local education authorities receive less money and Suffolk's grant is lower than any other county in the East of England, and nearly £3,000 per pupil less than the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of the wealthiest areas of Britain.
Primary school pupils receive £3,230 against a national average of £3,560, around £2,000 less than Kensington and Chelsea.
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Tony Lewis, the county council's portfolio holder for education and young people, said the low level of funding had been recognised by councillors for years.
But he added: "We have been lobbying ministers and the cash grants from central Government have increased.
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"Government formulas are complex and do not recognise sparsity problems in rural areas."
Martin Goold, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, said the figures were "worrying".
Mr Goold said although there were fewer areas of deprivation in the county than in urban areas, real need did exist in parts of Ipswich and Lowestoft which were not reflected in the Government's blanket grant.
"Suffolk has historically under-spent on education and these latest figures from Government emphasise that. The situation is made worse because the county has a higher proportion of special needs children in mainstream classes, which means more classroom resources have to be devoted to helping them."
Mr Goold added: "It is a deep concern and very worrying that the level of spending per secondary pupil in Suffolk is low compared with the rest of England."
Tim Yeo, Tory MP for Suffolk South, said the figures confirmed "what we have long suspected - that Suffolk has not been fairly treated.
"There has been a general discrimination by this Government against shire counties and rural counties. During the past eight years, the Labour dominated county council should have been pressing the case for a fair share for Suffolk but has failed to do so."
Mr Yeo added: "That education in Suffolk is so good is down to the hard work of teachers who have been battling against poor investment in our schools."
The England national average for secondary schools in all county, metropolitan, unitary, and London education authorities is £4,450.
Suffolk receives £4,070. Equivalent sums for the East of England are Essex £4,360; Hertfordshire £4,290; Bedfordshire £4,270; Norfolk, £4,200; Cambridgeshire £4,130. Unitary councils: Luton £4,850; Thurrock £4,820; Peterborough £4,560; Southend £4,480.
At primary level, Suffolk's £3,230 is less than Norfolk (£3,420), Essex (£3,460) and Cambridgeshire (£3,350).
The figures were revealed by Stephen Twigg, a junior minister in the Department for Education and Skills, in a written Parliamentary answer to Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat MP for Northavon and published in Hansard.
Local education authority funding settlements for the next financial year have seen a national average increase in the schools formula spending share of 6.9% per pupil, the Government says.
It said significant additional resources had been put into the settlement.