The headteacher of Bury Primary School took his concerns about the funding challenges faced by small rural schools directly to the schools minister at a meeting on Monday.
The meeting was organised by Nick Herbert in one of his final actions as MP for Arundel and South Downs, after he visited the school and heard headteacher Thomas Moore’s concerns about the effect of the new National Funding Formula on small primary schools.
Mr Moore said: “The shift to pupil-led funding disproportionately favours larger schools at the expense of small ones, whose funding is vulnerable to fluctuating intake numbers from year to year.”
Mr Herbert supported the headteacher’s submission and made the case for a minimum funding floor to maintain local village schools, which he described as ‘part of the social fabric of rural life in the South Downs’.
He said: “While the general uplift of 12 per cent that West Sussex has secured under the National Funding Formula is great news, it is important that small local schools such as Bury are not left behind in the new calculations.”
Nick Gibb MP, the schools minister, said Mr Moore had made ‘a compelling case for changes to future national funding formula arrangements’ and said: “We always keep the detail of the formula under review.
“I have therefore asked officials to look at Mr Moore’s particular proposals for funding policy for small rural schools.”
Mr Moore later tweeted that it had been a ‘positive meeting’ and said: “Fingers crossed it has a positive impact for small schools across the country.”
He wrote: “Thank you to Nick Gibb for acknowledging the ‘oversight’ that the inclusion of the lump sum negatively impacts small primaries.
“Sorting this is urgent to safeguard the future of small schools.
“I look forward to seeing how the Department for Education actively support us all.
“Discussions over relooking at the sparsity fund so that all small schools receive it.
“Also discussed that small schools are a parental preference for some and that it is positive when a family chooses to come to a small school that best supports their child - regardless of their location.”
Mr Herbert thanked Mr Herbert for ‘responding so constructively’ to the points raised at the meeting.
He said: “Village schools are vital to local parents in our rural communities, and it is important that they do not lose out in the National Funding Formula, especially when it’s good news that schools funding is being increased.
“The Minister was very responsive, and I am optimistic following this meeting that our concerns will be acted upon.”