Stourbridge MP left flagship academy in deficit and facing more underfunding: more local schools at risk

Money-starved Stourbridge schools will continue to suffer the effects of swingeing funding cuts after the Government’s much-vaunted £1.3bn reallocation of money for education left local schools still facing serious trouble, say independent researchers.

Figures from the schoolcuts.org data analysis website show that one of the biggest losers in town from the Government’s New Funding Formula is the flagship academy Redhill School where MP Margot James was an associate governor until last year.

The academy, which was already in deficit, is now projected to run over £300,000 deeper into difficulties each year until at least 2020, having already lost half its teaching assistants since 2015 at the same time that class sizes have increased.

The extra funding promised by the Government after a revolt that included some Conservative MPs is now to be spread over two years, not one, with £400m in 2018 and £800m in 2019 rather than the immediate £2bn that educators say is essential.

Until shortly before the Govt announced its restricted New Funding Formula in July 2017, the MP and Government Digital Minister Ms James was a celebrated associate governor at Redhill School and hosted high-profile visits by other senior ministers at the school to showcase its success as an academy.

But Ms James stood down as a governor three months before her re-election as MP for Stourbridge in 2017, and after Prime Minister Theresa May promised £4bn for schools in the pre-election run-up – a figure that was said at the time by school funding campaigners to be £1.3bn short of what was needed immediately as a minimum.

The impact of cuts on schools across Stourbridge and the wider Dudley borough has been detailed in analyses by the Education Policy Institute and the teacher-backed campaigners schoolcuts.org.

School funding comes mainly through local councils which depend on central funding from the Government. In the eight years that Ms James has been MP for the town, she has voted for council funding cuts year on year, culminating with a record 44 per cent cut for 2018 alone.

According to the calculations based on national statistics by the Education Policy Institute, only a handful of senior schools across Dudley borough will not be left worse off by the funding changes after inflation and previous cuts are taken into account.

Elsewhere in town, King Edward VI College – currently being lined up to take over the running of Stourbridge Town Hall as a ‘Community Asset’ – is projected to be worse off by £680,000 by 2020, a loss of over £360 per pupil. Funding situations at other schools in the area can be found at the schoolcuts.org website here.

Ms James’ resignation as a Redhill School governor also coincided with the school’s absorption into the Stour Vale multi-academy trust group, along with its assets – a step that it says enables it to ‘share’ resources like teaching staff.

But the move puts Redhill School together with Earls High academy in Dudley whose latest accounts from August 2017 show it places the group as running a combined operating deficit of nearly £400,000.

Stour Vale Academy Trust overall is also showing a pension deficit of £5m on its share of the Local Government Pension scheme, indicating that its contributions to the defined benefit scheme will need to rise in excess of inflation, putting further pressure on its finances.

After protests from headteachers and parent groups that the Government’s ‘extra’ funding did not make up for previous cuts made since 2010, then then education secretary Justine Greening said she would add the ‘extra’ £1.3bn to help schools across England cope.

But instead of providing new money, allocations for the so-called National Funding Formula are being extracted from other education programmes that include the capital budget for building and repairs  and initiatives to tackle childhood obesity and mental health.

 

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