Teachers' dismay as Barnet Council supports government reform which cuts '£500 per pupil'

By Dave Speck in Local People

UNION leaders in Barnet say they are “disappointed” that the council has pledged its support for government reform under which the borough’s schools are set to lose millions of pounds a year.

It’s estimated that the government’s new National Funding Formula could result in the loss of £23 million in Barnet’s schools, or £497 per pupil per year, as the government spreads education spending more “fairly” across the country.

However, Barnet Council’s ruling conservative group refused to support a motion opposing the formula put forward by Labour councillors at full council meeting this week

On the contrary, Councillor Reuben Thompstone, who is responsible for education in the borough, said he supported it because it would rebalance an unfair system.

And in a letter last summer to the then Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP, he said: “A wide range of serious variables are clearly being taken into account and this will help ensure the formula appropriately reflects the differing levels of need in different parts of this country.”

But bosses at the Barnet branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have accused the conservative group of bowing to “political ideology” in supporting their own government’s policy.

Branch chair Keith Nason said: “They don’t want to be seen to support a Labour motion against their own national government.

“I’m disappointed that the council is not fighting this. They should be saying there is a problem nationally - but it shouldn’t be resolved at the expense of children in Barnet, because schools are already struggling with budgets without having them cut any further. Barnet is not always the leafy suburb with plenty of money which people might think it is.”

The motion was defeated by 32 votes to 29, but not before Labour councillor Alison Moore, also a school governor, had called for conservative support against the formula arguing that it could have a "devastating" effect on Barnet’s state-funded schools.

She said: “In secondary schools staff cuts could mean axing non-core subjects, damage pastoral care and support, and critical extracurricular activity.

“In primaries it could mean larger class sizes, a loss of experienced staff, less time to mentor new teachers, less time for training.”

Councillor Thompstone, himself a teacher of 15 years, said the council’s own estimates put the loss at less than £136 per pupil. In his letter to Nicky Morgan, he called on the government to focus on housing costs in London and Barnet, which were putting pressure on schools recruiting good teachers.

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