£50m is being given to grammar schools to create new places. is this fair to all state schools?

June 2, 2018 3:29 PM
By Tony Clayton, Sevenoaks Town Councillor.

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Governments often claim that education funding is growing. But they usually fail to account for the number of students the budgets have to cover.

School funding in cash terms may rise, but not enough to match inflation, pupil numbers, or the pension, pay and other costs government itself fixes for schools. Add in the plans to reshape how money is distributed in the next few years and some schools face a real squeeze.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Education Policy institute both expect real cuts by 2021. The EPI says "there are unlikely to be any schools which will not face real cuts … we estimate the average primary school will need to save the equivalent of almost 2 teachers, and the average secondary school the equivalent of around 6 teachers."

Head teachers know this well. That's why government action to steer a disproportionate share of school improvement cash to the UK's 164 grammar schools is seen as unfair on the 3100 other state funded secondary schools.

Kent got a big share of the new national £50 million grammar expansion fund - including £10.7 million for Tunbridge Wells schools. But Sevenoaks lost out as places for boys at the new Seal Hollow Road campus will not be funded.

These are decisions taken in Westminster, not in Kent. Liberal Democrats are clear that local accountability, and local council responsibility for school places are the best way forward. Decision makers in Whitehall are unlikely to understand the local issues on which schools to expand.

We need extra places in West Kent schools - to stop students having to travel as far as Maidstone to get the education they want. And we need them in Sevenoaks, which has been short of school places now for over 40 years!

Tony Clayton

Sevenoaks Town Councillor