Hexham MP puts forward schools cash case

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has launched the Fairer Funding Challenge to get Northumberland a better deal on education funding

Schools Minister David Laws, and Hexham MP Guy Opperman (right)
Schools Minister David Laws, and Hexham MP Guy Opperman (right)

Politicians, parents and headteachers will work together in a bid to end the current “unfair” funding system which is penalising schools in Northumberland, a Government minister was told.

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman launched the Fairer Funding Challenge – a campaign to secure a bigger slice of the national financial cake for hard-pressed schools across the county.

Mr Opperman said he will work with county councillors, parents and school heads to produce the evidence required to persuade the coalition Government Northumberland deserves a better deal on education funding.

He launched the campaign during a visit to Hexham by Schools Minister David Laws – who said he thinks it is “highly likely” many rural counties like Northumberland will benefit from a new funding formula for schools which will be introduced in 2015.

Mr Laws was at Queen Elizabeth High School to meet local heads and Conservative politicians and discuss a number of schools issues.

Later this year the Government will launch a formal consultation exercise to help it devise the details of the funding formula, which is expected to take more account of rural issues such as sparsity and fixed school costs.

Mr Laws told The Journal: “We are going to introduce a fair funding formula right across the country because it is not satisfactory some schools get less funds per pupil for no rational reasons.

Schools Minister David Laws and Guy Opperman (right) at Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham
Schools Minister David Laws and Guy Opperman (right) at Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham
 

“We will be consulting by the end of this year and we want headteachers and others to engage with us so that we get the national funding formula right by spring 2015.

“I think it is highly likely many rural areas will benefit, because they have been under-funded in the past. Until we design the formula I’m not in a position to go round the country and promise things because we need to consult.

“Rural areas have been badly under-funded and the previous Labour Government knew that but didn’t do enough about it when more money was flowing into the education system than there is now.”

Mr Opperman said: “On any interpretation, Northumberland has, for a generation, received lower funding than almost any other county in the country.

“My strong hope is that, over the next six to nine months, the evidence we pull together as part of the Fairer Funding Challenge will show Northumberland needs a greater slice of the cake. We have talked about that with David Laws and it is up to us to make the case we deserve more.”

Meanwhile, school governor and local Liberal Democrat campaigner Clare Mills met Mr Laws yesterday to discuss progress on the plans to replace Alnwick’s Duchess’s High School.

She said: “Everyone I’ve spoken to is delighted that we are finally getting new school buildings for Alnwick paid for by central Government. I was able to talk to the minister about making sure the new-build allows for long-term improvements to Alnwick’s school provision.”

Ms Mills also raised the need for better local provision for children with moderate special educational needs.

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