From education to employment

Fair funding system needed to tackle school budget cuts – Clegg

Thousands of schools across the country are facing real terms budget cuts and need a new fair funding system if they are to deliver high quality education to all children regardless of their background, Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg said today.

Delivering a speech to the IPPR think-tank, Nick Clegg revealed new Liberal Democrat research showing that:

· Over a third of schools, equivalent to around 7,700 schools, are seeing cuts in their real per pupil funding

· Funding to schools per pupil has failed to rise in line with inflation

· Schools with similar levels of deprivation in different local authorities can receive differences in funding of as much as £500,000

· Teacher redundancies in many English schools are now a real possibility

Nick Clegg called for £2.5bn of reallocated money for a ‘Pupil Premium’ to support the most disadvantaged pupils. This would increase the per-pupil funding of these children to private school levels; the money would be transferred from scaling back the means-tested tax credits paid to the better off and by scrapping the Child Trust Fund.

In his speech in central London this morning, Nick Clegg said:

"We believe that 2008 and 2009 are going to be the toughest years for school budgets for a decade, as rates of inflation exceed the money allocated to many schools.

"Early indications are that teacher redundancies will rise from the start of the new school year this September – impacting directly on teaching.

"For many schools, Blair’s ‘Education, Education, Education’, is about to become Brown’s ‘Cuts, Cuts, Cuts’.

"It seems absolutely crazy to be cutting school budgets and staffing. This can only make it more difficult for our education system to meet the challenge of raising standards and closing the gap between affluent and deprived areas.

"Where school rolls are falling, this should be taken as an opportunity to consolidate children into lower class sizes – particularly in the most challenging schools. Instead, it looks as if falling rolls will trigger staff cuts.

"Liberal Democrats would make it a priority to halt these reductions in school budgets."

Calling for a ‘Pupil Premium’ to help drive social mobility, Nick Clegg said:

"There are cases where schools get £500 per pupil less than other schools with the same needs. That is a half a million pounds deficit in a typical 1,000 pupil secondary school.

"This is absurd and unfair. That is why I have advocated a new ‘Pupil Premium’, which would ensure that in the future more money is automatically allocated to each pupil from a disadvantaged background.

"The extra money would help every school in England. But it would disproportionately help schools in the most challenging parts of the country."

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