Warning over £25m schools budget cut

Report by James Cracknell

Steve White

Steve White, secretary of the Waltham Forest NUT branch. Credit: Karl Weiss.

Major cuts of up to £25million are set to be made to Waltham Forest’s schools budget, trade unions are warning.

The new national funding formula for schools that the government intends to introduce over the next three years, depending on the outcome of the 2017 General Election, would see school budgets across the borough slashed.

Schools in the capital are set to be affected by the new formula more than elsewhere in the country and outer London boroughs such as Waltham Forest could be the worst hit of all, according to the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

A calculation of the impact of the formula has been made by trade unions including NUT, and estimates a funding cut per pupil in Waltham Forest of £672. With nearly 37,000 pupils in the borough, it adds up to a total cut of around £25m.

Steve White, secretary of the Waltham Forest NUT branch, told the Echo: “The National Funding Formula (NFF) will move schools funding to other areas, mostly out of London. The borough is going to be extremely hard hit. In Waltham Forest some of the big comprehensive schools could be losing the equivalent of 20 percent of their teachers. Overall there is going to be an 11 percent cut by 2020.

“There is a real problem with recruiting and retaining teachers here, because the wages paid by outer-London schools is less than for inner-London schools; there’s a £5,000 difference. Why would you teach in Waltham Forest if you could work in Haringey, Hackney, or Newham, and get paid more? One way to solve the problem is by recruiting inexperienced teachers.

“We will resist teachers being made redundant. This could include schools going on strike, it needs that co-ordination. These cuts are absolutely unreasonable.”

Duncan James-Pike, a strategic finance advisor for Waltham Forest Council, wrote a report in April advising councillors on how the NFF was likely to affect the borough. His estimate of the NFF cuts amounted to £21m.

He said: “There is a significant risk that more schools will use up their reserves and submit deficit budgets. If a school has a deficit and becomes a sponsored academy, the local authority is responsible for writing off the deficit.

“If the government introduces the NFF as proposed, most schools in Waltham Forest will experience a base budget reduction of up to three percent over the two years 2018-19 to 2019-20, totalling £4.3m.

“When added to the unfunded cost pressures identified by the National Audit Office, this will amount to a real terms reduction of up to 11 percent over the four years 2016-17 to 2019-20, totalling £21.2m.”

The government has so far held two public consultations on the NFF, with the results of the second now being analysed. A report on the result of the first consultation published by the Department for Education stated: “The clear majority of responses supported moving to a national funding formula to ensure the school funding system is fair, open, and transparent. The current funding system does not support this aspiration. It is unfair, untransparent and out of date. Similar schools and local areas receive very different levels of funding, with little or no justification.”

NUT hosted an election hustings in Walthamstow earlier in May, and a demonstration against school funding cuts was also held in the town centre last Friday. Steve White added: “We would urge people to vote for a party that supports education.”

To see the NUT estimates for school cuts:

Visit schoolcuts.org.uk