Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Government money for local schools is much less than anticipated

Some three months ago, I welcomed the announcement from the Schools Minister, David Laws, that he had sanctioned investment in eight Cornish schools. I actually described the news as “fantastic.”

Cornwall Council had submitted eight applications for additional funding to the government’s Targeted Basic Need Programme, which would support the construction of much-needed new classrooms and other improvements in schools experiencing massive pressure from the number of children in their communities that need school places.

Taken together, the eight applications had sought a total of £18.8 million and, in July, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) informed the unitary authority that it had approved all eight applications.

Cllr Andrew Wallis, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for education, quite understandably described himself as “over the moon” at the success of the bid, and I was particularly delighted, because one of the schools was Indian Queens Primary School in my home Parish.

But it has since been confirmed by the EFA that Cornwall Council has only been allocated £7.8 million – some £11 million less than in the applications.

I find it shameful that central government can make grand announcements about investments in schools with a great deal of fanfare, while not giving any indication to Cornwall Council that the funding would only be about 40% of what had been requested.

The reaction of Cllr Wallis was clearly similar to mine. He “could not understand how the Council had been so misled” and has reported that he was “less than gentlemanly” in his choice of words, when he found out about the scale of the actual funding offer.

Cornwall Council is seeking a dialogue with the EFA, pointing out that the reduced allocation could undermine the school improvements, and asking them to reconsider the extent of the grant allocation.

For the sake of hundreds of local schoolchildren, I do desperately hope the Council is successful.

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