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MPs deny 'secret plan' to close rural schools
MINISTERS “are listening” to fears from schools about major concerns of funding reform, according to Worcestershire MPs.
Three days on from a passionate parliamentary debate over the county being one of the worst funded areas in the country, MPs are claiming victory over their argument.
On Tuesday schools minister David Laws revealed a major review of school funding would take place in 2013 as a result of the complaints from Worcestershire’s politicians.
As your Worcester News reported yesterday, Mr Laws also said there was no “secret plan” to force rural schools into closure.
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: “I am grateful for the minster for giving us a fair hearing and listening to the concerns of Worcestershire people.
“I know that our rural schools will be pleased with his words of support, reassurance and commitment that there is no secret agenda to close them. This debate has delivered clear reassurance he is listening and I hope that this allays the concerns I have heard from teacher, parents and governors.”
Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff said: “I am very encouraged by the response and attitude of the Department of Education about funding problems of Worcestershire’s schools.
“It remains my view that it would be better to first have a fairer national funding distribution in order to put Worcestershire’s schools on a level playing ground with their counterparts elsewhere in the country. The approach the minister took, though, and his promise that Worcestershire’s schools will not lose out on funding in the short term – while a fairer system is devised – is very welcome.”
Worcestershire is currently 147 out of 151 local education authorities in the UK for funding – and scores of schools are facing budget cuts of up to eight per cent next year. The only factor stopping it being even worse is a Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG), which means no school will get a per pupil reduction below minus 1.5 per cent.
During Tuesday’s debate Mr Laws said the MFG would remain in place at the same figure for 2014/15.
The county council has reluctantly agreed a new funding formula which will hit rural schools hard in 2013/14, but has refused to approve it for 2014/15 because it hopes the Government will award Worcestershire more cash by then.