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Head teachers 'scaremongering' over cash crisis

DAVID MILIBAND: insists funding for the county's schools will be safeguarded by new funding arrangements
DAVID MILIBAND: insists funding for the county's schools will be safeguarded by new funding arrangements

MINISTERS have accused head teachers in the county of “scaremongering” over a potential classroom cash crisis.

The charge follows claims by Kent schools that they will face severe budget pressures next year because of Government under-funding.

Schools have already voiced fears they will have to cut back on staff and possibly move to a four-day week to compensate for an estimated £22million shortfall across the county.

Their fears follow a consultant’s report commissioned by the Kent Schools Forum, an 11-strong group consisting of head teachers, parents, governors, councillors and church representatives which now considers education funding issues.

The report highlighted the potential for a multi-million pound shortfall and prompted the forum to urge all heads to write to MPs to complain.

But in an uncompromising response, the schools minister David Miliband takes the forum to task. His hard line is coupled with an assurance that measures are in hand to allow Kent schools to “get back on track.”

In a letter to forum chairman Hadrian Southorn, Mr Miliband dismisses the suggestion Kent will be singled out for harsher treatment than other parts of the country.

The letter says: “The guarantee announced by the Secretary of State of a minimum increase in funding per pupil is a real one and any suggestion Kent has been singled out with a settlement which will ‘not match the settlement for the rest of the country’ is unfounded"

He goes on to say funding for Kent schools will be safeguarded by new funding arrangements, giving each education authority a guaranteed minimum increase.

“We have made very clear that this form of protection will remain for as long as is necessary. It is scaremongering to suggest otherwise.”

He highlights a series of Government commitments which he says will ease the difficulties, including reversing planned cuts in the Standards Fund and a “guaranteed minimum increase in funding per pupil” over the next two years.

But Mr Southorn remained unrepentant. Schools would face genuine problems next year if the Government did not reimburse them the extra money many had spent this year to avoid cuts, he said.

“Until the Government gives us information that the funding for Kent will be better next year, we will remain totally unrepentant. Promises are all very well but we wait for the minister to put his money where his mouth is,” he said.

The Government is due to announce provisional details of local government budgets in the next few weeks. Council figures suggest a record number of Kent schools are in debt this year.

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