By Ian Dipple Wednesday 24 October 2012 Updated: 24/10 10:33
THE SCHOOLS minister has confirmed schools across Redditch will not be left to cope with huge budget cuts in three years time as a result of changes to the way they are funded.
David Laws announced during a Westminster Hall debate on the impact of school funding changes in Worcestershire held on Tuesday (October 23) a Minimum Funding Guarantee would continue to operate after 2015.
It means school budgets should not rise or fall more than 1.5 per cent per pupil while the process of moving to a fairer national funding formula is introduced, to address a situation which sees Worcestershire pupils received about £1,000 less than neighbouring Birmingham.
Some schools across Redditch stood to lose a total of about £1.5million in three years time as a result of changes introduced this year to simplify the formula used to distribute school funding. Although the MFG guarantees a degree of protection for school budgets over the next two years, headteachers feared they would be left exposed to the full impact of the cuts from 2015, with some standing to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Mr Laws acknowledged the current system was unfair and 'opaque' and it needed to be simplified to pave the way for a fairer national funding formula, but he added while it was being introduced the MFG would continue to operate.
"We cannot confirm the exact value of that guarantee as it covers the next spending review period; we need to know our budget for that period and to have Treasury approval before giving any such guarantees. None the less, we are absolutely committed to protecting school budgets from unmanageable falls," he said.
"At the moment, we have made it clear that we will continue it beyond the period of 2014-15. Although we are not in a position to make an announcement yet, given that we are seeking to move to a national funding formula, it is highly likely we will need some form of protection for a considerable period."
Redditch MP Karen Lumley, who lobbied for the debate, said the announcement was a huge lift for Redditch schools worried about the impact of the changes.
"The MFG will mean these schools will have the impact of the changes minimised. Indeed, as a result of these changes, some schools in Redditch will actually be better off and I am proud to be part of a Government which is helping children and addressing the educational issues in places such as Redditch, an issue abandoned in 13 years of Labour in Government," she said.
But Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, has criticised county councillors for approving a formula last week that will still see Redditch schools lose more than £300,000 from April, despite the MFG.
"Councillors have only highlighted the plight of rural schools in Worcestershire. I am angry no councillor spoke up for schools in urban areas with high levels of deprivation, it was as if Redditch was not a priority for the county councillors."
Worcestershire County Council believes the new simplified formula is 'inflexible' and has asked the Government to look at it again and will review the 2014/15 allocation next year.
In a letter to Ms Blake, Coun Jane Potter, responsible for education and skills on the county council, accused her of misunderstanding the figures.
"I would urge you not to cause panic for our parents and schools where none exists."
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