All 29 Cambridgeshire secondary schools threaten to take Government to court over funding crisis

Picture: Owen Humphries/PA

All 29 of Cambridgeshire’s secondary school academies have threatened to take the Government to the High Court over the school funding crisis.

George Osborne promised that the Government would make school funding fairer from 2015 for cash-strapped counties like Cambridgeshire, which is the worst-funded out of all 151 local authority areas in the country, as highlighted in the News’ Fair Deal For Our Schools campaign.

But the region’s 29 secondary school academies fear the changes will come too late, with several county headteachers now unable to guarantee balancing the books in 2014/15 – raising the prospect of years of deep cuts and debt-ridden schools.

In a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove and Schools Minister David Laws, seen by the News, Caroline Derbyshire, chairman of Cambridgeshire Secondary Headteachers, said she has been told that 2015 is just the start of “a rolling programme” of the reforms and “it could be years before our schools experience an improved situation”.

She added she was told in a meeting with the Education Funding Agency that headteachers in well-funded authorities, many of which sit in relatively deprived areas, will ‘howl’ about reductions in their funding.

She said: “We remain concerned that our voice, as the poorest schools, is not lost in the political din that will doubtless ensue.”

Furthermore, with the general election in 2015, the changes to basic per pupil funding promised by this Government may be dropped by another one.

Ms Derbyshire, who is the headteacher of Linton Village College, added: “With these points in mind, as a group of academies we have decided to continue to take the Department for Education (DfE) to a judicial review over its current and future funding of academies nationally, unless some tangible action is taken by the EFA to alleviate the funding shortage that we are facing in Cambridgeshire in the years prior to the receipt of fair per pupil funding.

“What we need, quite desperately, is a funding ‘bridge’ between our current and future situations to enable us to manage our budgets for the forseeable future.”

Cambridgeshire headteachers say they hear from their peers from other authorities about how they can reduce class sizes by employing teachers and pay for school uniform and iPads for their pupils, which Ms Derbyshire called a “different world” to the financial climate their schools operate in.

Each Cambridgeshire pupil, across primary, middle and secondary schools, is £600 worse off every year for their education compared with those schooled in an averagely-funded area because of a discrepancy dating back to the 1980s.

A DfE spokesman said: “We have received the letter and will reply in due course.

“We have protected the schools budget. David Laws wrote to Ms Derbyshire on June 19, explaining our plans and our commitment to hold a public consultation on the national funding formula, which we will do shortly.”

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