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New Forest and Christchurch schools lose millions in funding, teachers' union claims

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Priestlands School in Lymington
Priestlands School in Lymington

WITH pupils having returned to class, figures compiled by a teaching union revealed schools in the New Forest and Christchurch have lost government funding worth millions.

Headteachers have seen their spending pots shrink by hundreds of thousands of pounds between 2015/16 and 2018/19, according to research by the National Education Union.

The worst hit secondary school in the New Forest was Priestlands in Lymington which lost £891,464 over the four years – equivalent to £253 per pupil.

Earlier this year its head teacher, Peter Main, made an appeal to town councillors to lobby Sir Desmond Swayne, New Forest West’s Conservative MP, to press the government for more funding.

Meanwhile New Milton’s The Arnewood School lost £566,596 – or £176 per pupil. In 2018 it had to make four staff redundant, did not renew some fixed-term contracts and support staff had their hours reduced.

Speaking to the A&T, Mr Main said funding per pupil had not risen in line with costs, adding: “This has put significant pressures on the budget.

“Recent pay awards, long overdue for staff, have been partially but not fully funded by government grants and we await to see with the current political uncertainty if the funding will be maintained.”

However, he stressed Priestlands was in a “strong financial position” for the current academic year as it had made “smart decisions” that avoided the need for any redundancies and maintained excellent provision for students.

Mr Main highlighted some of the initiatives Priestlands has run in the past year had been supported grants from Lymington and Pennington town councillors and Lymington Rotary Club.

The Arnewood School in New Milton
The Arnewood School in New Milton

Arnewood headteacher Nigel Pressnell said: “The Institute for Fiscal Studies has reported an 8% fall in school funding in England and Wales since 2010, and this certainly fits with our experience at Arnewood.

“As long as schools are expected to meet increased costs, from already severely reduced budgets, educational provision will diminish.

“This means, for example, larger class sizes, fewer subject choices, smaller spend on staff training, and cost savings on building maintenance and IT.”

The figures were produced from public data by the National Education Union, a merger of the former National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

The numbers take into account inflation and growing class sizes. It means that although income for Priestlands fell by about £100,000, taking into account rising costs it is calculated to have lost £891,464 in real terms.

Across Hampshire £87.5m has been lost at a rate of £199 per pupil. Out of 483 schools 437 experienced cuts to their per-pupil payments.

Ringwood School lost £641,168 – a per-pupil loss of £112. Burgate School and Sixth Form in Fordingbridge lost £672,326 (£217).

In Totton Testwood School lost £203,688 (£164), and Hounsdown School £489,182 (£138).

Applemore College in Dibden Purlieu lost £569,158 (£366), and the New Forest Academy in Hardley lost £285,911 (£335).

In Christchurch, Highcliffe School lost £541,801 (£110). Twynham School lost £902,897 (£204). At the Grange School the per-pupil money increased by £39, although overall funding was down by £56,457.

Reports of schools’ finances being stretched recently prompted the government to pledge a funding package with an extra £2.6bn for 2020/21, £4.8bn for 2021/22, and £7.1bn for 2022/23, compared to 2019/20.

As part of this, every secondary school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year and primary schools a minimum of £4,000 from 2021/22. The deal includes £700m extra for children with special educational needs and disabilities in 2020/21.

Mr Johnson stressed the move was a “first step”, adding: “We should not accept the idea that there can be ‘winners or losers’ when it comes to our children’s futures.”

But Mr Main and Mr Pressnell sounded caution over the recent government announcement.

The Priestlands head pointed out school income was generated from many streams and if other grants were cut, the new funding would only maintain the “status quo”.

“I would suggest the government need to be very clear and transparent about the future short and long-term plans for school funding so that we can all plan effectively,” Mr Main remarked.

“We want to ensure there is no need for redundancies and that we can maintain the quality of education we deliver. Now schools are required to deliver so much more than the core curriculum, it is essential we are adequately resourced to do so.”

Mr Pressnell added: “While I am pleased to hear the government’s promise of a £5,000 minimum funding guarantee for each student, it seems that unfortunately the money is not actually available until next year.

“We await to see the outcome of much-anticipated discussion on post-16 funding which also applies to schools, like Arnewood, with sixth forms.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner MP, was unimpressed, calling the package a “con-trick” that came “nowhere near” reversing education cuts over the past few years.

To find out more go to www.schoolcuts.org.uk.

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