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Village schools to bear the brunt of cash cuts
CUTS to school funding across Worcestershire have been controversially appr-oved – with the worst-hit facing reductions of up to eight per cent next year.
Worcestershire County Council has agreed to adopt a new Government formula for the 2013/14 year which means drastic reductions for mainly rural schools.
The cabinet admitted there will be winners and losers under the cuts, but said it was reluctantly following instructions from the Department for Edu-cation in simplifying the system. But the council has stopped short of agreeing the same model for the 2014/15 year, and insists it will have more time to lobby the Government for a better result by then.
As your Worcester News revealed last week, some schools face savage cuts of up to 40 per cent by 2015 onwards unless the county fights for a better outcome.
The only thing stopping cuts of up to 40 per cent being implemented now is a minimum funding guarantee (MFG), which means reductions cannot be worse than minus 1.5 per cent per pupil.
During a cabinet meeting yesterday, the council’s leadership admitted it was effectively hamstrung by Government policy.
Worcestershire is the 147th worst funded local education authority in the country (out of 151).
Councillor Adrian Hard-man, council leader, said: “Twenty years ago we were mid-table in a league table of school funding across the country – now we’re virtually bottom.
“We are in a position not of our own making.”
During the debate it was revealed that County Hall staff had tried tinkering with the calculations hundreds of times in a bid to get better outcomes for more schools.
The end result means that while all Worcester secondary schools gain money, rural areas tend to lose out, including almost all the primary schools.
The authority said it was planning to produce the data on its website so the public can see the efforts made to be as fair as possible, said Coun Hardman.
Coun Tom Wells, a Liberal Democrat, said: “This will have dire consequences for so many village communities.”
Coun Liz Eyre, the cabinet member for children and young people, said: “These are difficult circumstances and it’s a hard decision for everyone – but you can re-model the calculations hundreds of times and there will be winners and losers.”
Worcestershire’s MPs have secured a parliamentary debate over the county’s school funding plight, which is set to take place on Tuesday.
Schools across Worcest-ershire received a total of £285 million this year.
The Government, which is responsible for the funding, has altered the formula for distributing cash to schools from 38 factors to just 12.
There will be no extra money provided, meaning council chiefs have been tasked with taking cash away from schools to hand it to others in order to meet the criteria.
The Government has confirmed no cuts will be worse than minus 1.5 per cent per pupil, something known as the Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG).
The MFG applies for 2013/14 and 2014/15, but there is no guarantee for the year after.
Without any long term commitment to the MFG, schools in Worcestershire face cuts of up to 40 per cent, and a quarter will lose over 10 per cent of their yearly grant, raising fears some will be forced to close.
The county council has agreed to approve the formula for 2013/14, but has refused to rubber-stamp it for 2014/15, and will lobby for more money.