Education & Family

Heads 'furious' at grammar cash promise

classroom Image copyright iStock
Image caption School leaders are angry at how politicians are selecting the funding available

Head teachers warning that they face financial meltdown are "furious" that the government has been pledging funds to create grammar schools in England.

It was revealed on Wednesday that ministers had invited grammar school leaders to apply for £150m over three years for new selective school places.

School leaders have also demanded the return of £384m, initially promised to turn schools into academies.

The Department for Education says school funding is at record levels.

School leaders have been angered that while they have been warning about a lack of basic funding, the government has been able to promise hundreds of millions for projects such as expanding grammars and changing schools to academy status.

'Incredulity'

Head teachers in West Sussex have been campaigning against what they claim are serious budget shortfalls.

They have written to local MPs to express their "incredulity" at the funding that appears to be available for grammars.

They are also calling on political leaders to account for their spending decisions.

The Grammar School Heads' Association had a private meeting with the education secretary and schools minister in which they discussed plans to expand selective places and to create new grammar schools for 2020.

The notes of the meeting, published by the grammar heads, include details of how to contact the department for £50m per year for new selective places.

The heads in West Sussex have called for emergency funding of £20m and have warned that without this schools might have to cut hours, increase class sizes or stop teaching some subjects.

They have told MPs that "throughout our campaign school leaders have sought to be 'relentlessly reasonable'; now we are simply furious".

They describe local schools as "scrabbling around for any form of cash like a desperate person checking down the side of their sofa for the odd pound coin or two".

'Return the £384m'

Earlier this week, finance directors and school business managers from Barnet wrote to the Department for Education warning of an impending financial crisis.

They called on the government to return the £384m promised to fund a plan to turn all of England's schools into academies.

When that was overturned by a backbench rebellion, it was revealed that the funding was taken back by the Treasury.

School leaders have argued that a redistribution of how schools are funded, in a new funding formula, could avoid having any losers if this money, once announced for schools, could be returned.

Grammar school head teachers have also been complaining about funding shortages - and have warned that they might have to start asking parents for payments.

The National Union of Teachers has attacked the government for pledging funds for new grammar places when schools are already "crying out for sufficient funding".

Protecting budgets

The union's general secretary Kevin Courtney accused the education secretary of "fiddling around with secret plans for a return to a two-tier education system" which would be of no benefit to 90% of children.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said schools in West Sussex would gain from changes in the funding formula - with an extra £145 per pupil per year.

"We have protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17," said the DFE spokeswoman.

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