Fair Funding – consultation in next few weeks – hopefully

Tony Brockman, of Haringey NUT, had convened a meeting of education stakeholders last night – to prepare for the consultation that will finally arrive in the next few weeks on funding our children in our Haringey Schools.

I started the ‘fair funding’ campaign several years ago, when I discovered from Parliamentary figures obtained – that our children got around £750.00 per head less than each child in Islington, Camden or Hackney. Hence the campaign title – fair funding!

Since that discovery and the full on campaign – I am pleased to say that the Labour MP and Minister, David Lammy, the Labour Council Leader, teachers, governors, parents and all – are all campaigning together to get the funding formula which delivers this disparity – changed – so that our children have a fair education.

The gap is still widening – and currently our children are getting over £1100 less per head – that is equivalent to £35 million per year and could deliver over 1000 extra teachers. That would be 15 teachers more for each of our Haringey schools.

And whilst our teachers do an excellent job – and we are improving – we are not improving as fast as other comparable areas. Obviously – a thousand more teachers would enable us to zoom ahead!

So – having secured a debate in Parliament specifically on Haringey’s unfair funding, having met with Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker (and twice with predecessor Jim Knight), having raised it at Prime Minister’s Questions and several other times in the House as well as tabling countless written questions – we are now at the point of possibility.

The Government has been conducting a review into their funding formula with the help of Price Waterhouse Cooper – and they are about to go out to consultation on the options for a changed funding formula. It is complex – really complex- so complex that Haringey have had to employ KPMG to interpret the new options – and they were there last night to explain to the stakeholders what will be next.

In brief – it looks like the recommended option in the Review will deliver a 6.6% increase to Haringey schools (if the consultation supports the recommended option). That won’t deliver parity – but it will deliver another £10million per year to our schools – and is probably for the time being – the best we are going to get out of this Government.

So – assuming this is the case and the consultation goes ahead – we all have to make sure that everyone – from stakeholders, to parents, to everyone – responds to the consultation. And we need to respond early and with personal experiences – what it will mean to our children and our school.

I also suggested that all our Haringey children might like to respond to – to make sure the Government hears directly from those most affected. I’m sure our children telling the Government what they could do with an extra £1000 would clinch the case!

I am hopeful, that after what has been a huge campaign as MP for this area, we will see a narrowing of the funding gap. Set to widen even further this year to around £1200 – it is the biggest ‘cliff edge’ between neighbouring boroughs for funding disparity.

I will come back and publicise the consultation as soon as the Government puts it out for us to respond to. It is thought that will be in the next three weeks – but track record on this would indicate that it could slip. But time is of the essence.

Fair funding for Haringey Schools

Well – finally – on the record – the gross unfairness of the way the Government funds schooling in Haringey. Just briefly – we get about £1183 less per child than neighbouring boroughs like Camden, Hackney and Islington. That is around £35 million a year – or more importantly – if we got fair funding we could have 1021 more teachers (we have 1500) that is 15 per school. Imagine the difference that would make.

You can watch the debate at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=4948  it starts about two thirds in if you scroll along.

I was so pleased that local school governors, parents, Haringey NUT and the Schools Forum came to actually watch the debate in Parliament. We were also the lead story on BBC London – which is great – because all of this is about not letting the Government sideline Haringey in the current Review of our Dedicated Schools Grant. They ignored the unfairness last time and in fact increased the problem – widening the gap.

Needless to say the Minister refused to give us a categoric assurance that the funding gap would be closed post review, refused our request for a Haringey Representative on the Funding Review Panel, refused to give us emergency funding until the gap is closed. However, she did concede the case that we made and assured us that our voices had been heard.

So – whist fair funding is still a way away – the key thing is – they can’t possibly claim they don’t know how badly Haringey is being affected by this funding unfairness – and they will look extremely bad if they don’t rectify matters.

The Schools Minister has agreed to a meeting with me in a couple of weeks time – so I can take up all the questions in my speech that were left unanswered and push further on the ones that were!

Fair school funding for Haringey

Later today, 4pm in Westminster Hall, I finally get to put Haringey’s case for fair funding to the Minister on the record. This is about the fact that our Haringey children get £1183 less per head than neighbouring boroughs. I have tackled Gordon in PMQs before (he agreed it was an ‘anomaly’), met with now former School’s Minister Jim Knight, raised it in on the floor of the House – but today I have actually secured a debate and the Minister has to respond directly – in public.

The key questions for the Minister to respond to are:

– why does the Government make Haringey pay our school teachers at the higher inner London rate (rightly as we have the same challenges as Camden, Hackney and Islington) but then not award them inner London per pupil funding?

– given that this unfair funding  has gone of for some years and civil servants have clearly not seen fit to do anything about rectifying this situation and may be tempted to once again fail to address this situation, what case will the Minister be making to the current Review into school funding, that will ensure Haringey don’t come out the other end of the Review in the same unfair position?

– the Review will not report until later in 2010 and its findings won’t be implemented until 2011. Haringey schools in recent figures released to David Laws, LibDem Education Spokesperson showed that Haringey, together with three other authorities, have more schools in deficit than anywhere else in the country. Given that this unfair funding is now causing real damage, will the Minister commit to making an interim bridging fund of £1000 per Haringey child until the funding anomaly is corrected in the Review.

This video demonstrates the situation in brief – but was filmed just before I heard I had secured the debate:

You can also watch it on YouTube here.

Fair Funding debate – at last!

I was telephoned by the Speaker’s Office this afternoon with glad tidings. I have succeeded in getting an Adjournment debate on Fair Funding in Haringey Schools. It is scheduled for next Wednesday. Hurrah!

For anyone who doesn’t know – my campaign to get fair funding for Haringey schoolchildren came about because currently the funding is diabolically unfair. Even Gordon Brown, when I quizzed him a while back at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), agreed it was an ‘anomoly’.

This ‘anomoly’ arises out of the injustice of us (Haringey) having to pay inner London teacher salaries but only receiving outer London per pupil funding. The differential is stark. Our kids each get £1,183 less than children in Camden, Hackney or Islington.

Haringey Council, Haringey NUT and the schools are now all supporting fair funding for Haringey Schools.

I’ve raised the issue not only in Prime Minister’s Questions, but also on the floor of the House, had two meetings with the former Schools Minister Jim Knight (it’s a pain when the Minster changes – which he has). I have a request into the new Minister, Vernon Coaker, for a meeting too.

Now – at last – I have scored an Adjournment Debate. It will last half an hour – and it will be just myself and then the Minister will answer.

To date – the answers and meetings have generally ended with the Government saying that the Funding Review will take care of this – a funding review that won’t introduce whatever its recommended new funding is until 2011. I lobbied for Haringey to have specific representation on the Review Panel – but they refused and they have also refused so far to give a guarantee that we will receive fair funding in the Review.

I have heard other Members in the House raise the issue of differentials they experience in their constituencies – but the last one last week was around a £350 differential – which is bad – but our differential of £1183 is killing.

Our teachers do a brilliant job trying to deliver the absolute best education with the budget they have. However, there were some recent figures that showed that Haringey had the most or nearly the most schools in deficit. The Heads are struggling to try not to make any reductions in the staffing – but clearly with such a huge loss of funding around £32 million per year – it is getting impossible. Just imagine the difference that money would make.

I am emailing all my schools to ask them to let me know their particular situation and how the under-funding is affecting them – so I can illustrate the argument with the facts on the ground.

Hopefully we will get it through to the Government that this is just not fair. Our schools are struggling terribly with their budgets – and if ‘every child matters’ how come our children don’t matter as much as them next door?