SOS: fund our schools fairly!

UNISON member and further education support worker Sarah Maynard helps coordinate the work of the parents’ campaign group Save Our Schools (SOS) West Sussex.

Its focus is to campaign for fair funding of West Sussex schools. Here, Sarah explains its recent work and plans for the future.

“Fundamentally, we’re dealing with the long-term, chronic under-funding of West Sussex schools,” said Sarah.

“The national funding formula (NFF – the calculation used by government to fund schools across the country) has been biased against West Sussex for many years. For example, a secondary school with a very similar demographic and catchment area in Reading would receive £½m more than a West Sussex school. In Hackney it would receive £4m more.”

“When our children are judged against the same Ofsted and exam criteria, it cannot be fair that our schools receive far fewer resources.”

“The £1.3bn offered recently by education secretary Justine Greening was not new money. It was simply shuffled around from other budget areas. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has said there will still be a £1.7bn shortfall by 2020. It’s simply not enough to compensate for the drastic level of cuts experienced by our schools.”

The SOS West Sussex campaign has been actively lobbying on behalf of local schools, supporting the work led by headteachers. In October, as part of a mass lobby of parliament, both SOS and UNISON members met with Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley.

“It was a disappointing meeting,” continued Sarah. “Though we handed over a huge scroll of messages from teachers, parents and support staff, he told us it would make no difference
and refused to raise the matter with the chancellor.

“We get similar reactions from other West Sussex MPs, but it won’t stop us making our case. It’s now reached such a critical point that parents are being asked by headteachers to help plug the funding shortfall by paying for books, trips and resources. We know heads are desperate, but it cannot be right that parents are being asked to do this. Our taxes are already paying for  education. It completely discriminates against low-income families that might not be able to afford to pay for these basics, so their children risk performing poorly.”

Please follow and support the SOS campaign.