West Sussex headteacher praises extra school funding, but says ‘we mustn’t get carried away’

Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School. Credit: LDRS

Extra government money will take West Sussex schools back up to the funding levels they received ten years ago, a campaigning headteacher has said.

The government’s plan to boost funding by £7.1bn by 2022/23 was described as a ‘positive step’ by Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, in Horsham, but he told councillors ‘we mustn’t get carried away’.

Mr White, the driving force behind the WorthLess? campaign for fairer school funding, was speaking at a County Hall meeting, in Chichester on Wednesday, where members were given a rough idea of what the extra cash would mean.

Exact figures will not be revealed until next month but it was estimated that some primary schools in West Sussex would get around £500 per pupil more – rising from £3,500 to £4,000 – and some secondary schools would get around £200 per pupil more – rising from £4,800 – £5,000.

Mr White said it would be ‘absolutely churlish’ for headteachers not to recognise the improvements.

But he pointed out that, even though the extra money was intended to ‘level up’ school funding, the more poorly funded authorities such as West Sussex would still be lagging behind.

He said:

“You have to take into account that, when they talk about £5,000 per pupil, we are still lagging many other areas by 50 and 70 per cent. That won’t particularly change.

“There are regularly schools that have £6,000 per pupil, £7,000, in the highest cases close to £8,000 per pupil. So those differentials are still in place and they haven’t really changed very much.”

Mr White also warned that, while welcome, commitments to introducing starting salaries of £30,000 for teachers could ‘blow a huge hole’ in the extra provision.

Summing up, he said:

“It’s a positive step. We should embrace that. But I think that we’ve probably won a battle but not won the war.

“And West Sussex needs to be particularly mindful of its overall funding position, which is inadequate compared to many other local authorities.

“We need our politicians and our local MPs to make sure they keep on banging the drum because it’s not done by any means yet.”

(By Karen Dunn – Local Democracy Reporter)