Suffolk school pupils 'short-changed'

HUGE regional differences in spending on education can be revealed today, with Suffolk receiving less than half the level of funding per pupil of some London schools.

By Jonathan Barnes

HUGE regional differences in spending on education can be revealed today, with Suffolk receiving less than half the level of funding per pupil of some London schools.

Figures released by the Department for Education and Skills show the county receives one of the lowest settlements in the country, with £3,372 spent on every pupil in Suffolk in 2006-7.

That compares to an average of £6,708 allocated to pupils in City of London schools, while many other education authorities in the capital are also funded about £2,000 more per pupil every year.

Suffolk is also lower-funded than its neighbours, Essex (which gets £3,524 per pupil), Norfolk (£3,423) and Cambridgeshire (£3,407).

Last night, a Suffolk MP said there was no justifiable reason for the wide differences in funding and said the county was being penalised for being “good” and posing no problems to the Government.

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The figures were announced by education minister Jacqui Smith in response to a Parliamentary question by Conservative MP Michael Fabricant.

They show just 15 of the 150 local education authorities in England received a lesser funding-per-pupil settlement than Suffolk, with Leicestershire (£3,224) receiving the lowest.

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Our children in Suffolk have the same needs than those in any other counties so why on earth should we have less money?

“The county has suffered in this way for a number of years - it is clearly unfair and it doesn't take into account the problems a county such as Suffolk has.

“There is no fat in the system and the under-funding puts a lot of pressure on schools and their budgets.”

Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for Suffolk South and a former education secretary, said: “This shows that Suffolk is not getting a fair crack of the whip.

“The disparity between one part of the country and another makes a mockery of Labour's claim in 1997 that funding of education would be made fairer.

“I understand there will always be disparity between funding for urban and rural areas, with difficult areas getting extra funding, but I think the disparity is too great to be explained entirely in those terms. I am certainly surprised that Suffolk receives less than Norfolk or Cambridgeshire.

“Suffolk does what the Government wants it to do - it's stable, adaptable and has low crime rates - and it seems we are being penalised for being good, and I think that's outrageous.”

This is the first year that schools have been funded directly by the Government rather than money being channelled to them through local education authorities, and this year's funding represents a rise of 6.7% on 2005-6.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: “The Government distributes funding to local authorities for their schools in a way that reflects the individual needs of school pupils in each area.

“Areas with high levels of deprivation receive more funding as their schools are more likely to have pupils with additional educational needs.

“Suffolk has lower than average levels of deprivation and receives less funding as a result: for example, the percentage of children in families on income support in Suffolk is less than half that in Birmingham.

“This is a good settlement for all authorities and their schools, with the lowest increase for any area set at 6.4% per pupil next year and an increase for Suffolk of 6.7%.

“It gives schools everywhere the secure and predictable base they need to deliver a wider and more personalised offer to all their pupils.”

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