Anger as spending on North East schools falls sharply

Children in the North East receive some of the lowest education funding in the country, new figures show

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Government data shows that each child in Newcastle is receiving just £3,763 on their education this year, a 20% drop from last year and the fourth lowest total in England.

Northumberland is also among the 10 lowest funded areas in the country, while Gateshead, South Tyneside and County Durham all saw above average reductions in funding from last year.

The figures have been seized upon by unions and MPs, with warnings that advances in attainment could be undone by the low funding.

Last night Mike McDonald, regional secretary of the teaching union NUT, said: “Time and again we hear Government saying that education spending is protected.

“That simply isn’t true and it is clearly the case that local authorities are seeing their budgets squeezed, limiting the funding they can provide to schools. Such huge drops in funding will inevitably have a damaging effect on the standard of education schools can provide, leading to less spending on educational equipment, job-cuts and rising class sizes, which will be detrimental to pupils’ learning and development.

“The effect of education cuts on this generation of young people will be felt far into the future.”

And Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said: “In transport, in healthcare and here, crucially in education, this divisive Government is moving resources away from the North East to more affluent areas.

“They said education spending was going to be ring-fenced, this is yet another broken promise. We need our young people to have the skills to compete on the job market, but this Government does not seem to care. “

In the last 12 months, the funding per pupil in Newcastle has gone down from £4,758 to £3,673, a drop of £995 and £677 below the national average.

Officials at the city council are analysing the new figures but say they believe there are some inconsistencies in the way they have been recorded. Children in Northumberland get an average of £3,856 - £528 less than last year – while in Gateshead they get £4,152.

By contrast, children in the Tower Hamlets area of London get £6,935 and even affluent Kensington and Chelsea spends £5,784 per pupil.

Margaret Whellans, Gateshead’s strategic director for learning and children, said: “The fact that Gateshead appears to spend less per pupil is puzzling and in no way reflects the priority Gateshead Council gives to education, nor the quality of the education it offers. Recent results for A level, GCSE and SATs show us as one of the top performing authorities in the country, so it certainly doesn’t appear that we are short-changing our pupils.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said this year’s figures were not easily comparable with the previous year as academies had been added this year as well as maintained schools.

Last week The Journal reported how primary schools in the North East were now outperforming the national average in most areas.

Information on pupils’ achievement at the end of Key Stage Two – when they leave primary school – showed that all areas of Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham are better than the national average in maths, while most also do better in both English and science.

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