Last week (September 21) Conservatives members on Wandsworth Council’s Education Committee rejected proposals aimed at protecting the real term value of school budgets for the next 2 years.
Cllr Jeremy Ambache, Labour’s Education spokesperson, who proposed the measures, said “Tory councillors dismissed our suggestion that the Council write to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask them to ensure that the funding for Wandsworth schools maintains its spending value in real terms for the next two years. Given the perilous state of school budgets in the borough, this decision shows a remarkable lack of will to assist local schools struggling to make ends meet”.
He added: “Schools are facing real financial difficulties. One Secondary school in the borough has told me that they have already had to cut 10 teachers and 5 support staff to save £420,000 and that further cuts are anticipated next year. Another head teacher at a local primary school has said that she cannot afford to replace 4 teachers who have left. The Council needs to do more to support the borough’s schools”.
Cllr Jeremy Ambache with local parents
In recent years new financial obligations have been placed on schools without the necessary funding from Central Government to pay for them, including increases in the minimum wage, in National Insurance contributions, in pension contributions, a new apprenticeship levy and higher Business Rates.
As a result, Wandsworth schools have had to raid their cash reserves to cover these additional costs. Cash balances in local schools were down from £21m to £14m in 2016/17; and it is forecast that reserves will be down to £7m by the end of the current financial year.
According to Jeremy Ambache “Spending money from the reserves is a short term measure to stop schools having to make more drastic cuts, but these reserves won’t last forever”.
The funding squeeze is particularly acute for schools which provide support for children with special educational needs. The cost of special education provision in Wandsworth was more than a £1million over budget in 2016/7.
Jeremy Ambache concluded: “The new ‘National Funding Formulae’ for school budgets being proposed by the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, will make matters even worse. This new proposed government funding allocation will be introduced from 2018/19 and will mean even more money is taken away from schools in Wandsworth. It is time the Council stood up for its schools and used the leverage it has with central government to ease the funding crisis”.