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By Gary Smee Thursday 25 October 2012 Updated: 01/11 13:48
THE SCHOOLS minister has confirmed schools in Evesham, Pershore and the surrounding villages 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 in the Vale stood to lose a huge chunk of their funding 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."
Pershore's MP Harriett Baldwin, who lobbied for the debate, said the announcement was a huge lift for the area's schools worried about the impact of the changes.
"I know that our rural schools will be pleased with the Ministers words of support, reassurance and his commitment that there is no secret agenda to close them," she said.
"This debate has delivered clear reassurance from the Minister that he is listening to Worcestershire’s concerns and I hope that this allays the concerns I have heard from teacher, parents and governors."
Evesham's MP, Peter Luff, also welcomed the news.
"The schools in the Evesham pyramid in my constituency would be most seriously affected were the policy to proceed unamended. The schools in the Evesham pyramid would lose about £1.3 million.
“They cannot afford to lose that amount of money. No school could, but certainly not schools that are in a badly funded authority to begin with.
"There was a clear suggestion from the minister that schools budgets would be protected from unmanageable falls through the continuation of the minimum funding guarantee well beyond 2014-2015, which is great news.
"This is a very positive step and I hope that local people will be reassured by the minister’s comments. Now we have to work with him to ensure his good intentions are put into practice."
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