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Benyon raises schools funding issue with May

Mp promises to maintain push for improved funding for West Berks schools

Charlotte Booth

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Charlotte Booth

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NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has said he will continue to push for improved funding for West Berkshire schools.

The promise comes two weeks after the Newbury Weekly News revealed how the number of the district’s schools spending beyond their means has trebled in the last year, as heads and governors struggle to cope with tightening budgets.

Mr Benyon revealed he had raised the issue of school funding personally with Prime Minister Theresa May following last month’s snap general election and gave assurances that the new National Funding Formula would be reviewed.

He said: “There are various factors we need to accept.

“Firstly there is more money being spent on education than ever before and, secondly, some schools are coping with current spending levels and some aren’t. We need to look at why that is.

“Prior to the election I was raising this with ministers and since the election I have raised it personally with the Prime Minister and she recognises that this is an issue and it does need to be resolved.

“So my commitment to them is that I will continue to push for improvement to the fairer funding formula, which I don’t think went far enough in the last parliament.”

In June, Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, indicated that the Government would review its first draft proposals for a fairer funding formula following criticism from a number of backbench Conservative MPs.

While offering improved funding to more than 10,000 schools across the country, the proposals would have also meant cuts for more than 9,000 schools, many of which are in rural communities, including West Berkshire.

Mr Benyon added: “I want to make sure West Berkshire schools are getting their message across to the Government.

“We will keep the pressure up so that our governors, headteachers and parents get the assurance they need.”

Speaking about the promise of reviewing the proposed national funding formula, West Berkshire’s executive member for education, Lynne Doherty (Con, Northcroft), said: “We would certainly be in favour, as we were calling for this to reassess the potential negative impact on some schools and authorities.

“As a consequence, we would hope that the final formula will be fairer to West Berkshire schools, securing additional funding and supporting the financial viability of our small village schools.”

In the last financial year, 15 West Berkshire schools spent beyond their means compared to five in 2015/16.

The figures prompted calls for West Berkshire Council to take tougher action against headteachers who fail to manage their budgets throughout the school year.

In response, the district council has said it is looking to introduce tighter in-year budget controls to rein in the spending of ‘repeat offenders’.

The Government pledged an extra £4bn boost to education funding in its manifesto ahead of the snap election in June.

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