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Marple Hall School set to lose funding

Diane Inglis

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Marple Hall SchoolMarpleFundingJoe BarkerMP William Wragg

Marple Hall School Head teacher Joe Barker

Marple Hall School is set to lose some of its budget if a new funding system is introduced next year.

The school is already underfunded, compared to similar schools across the country, and more cuts could see even less money per pupil in years to come.

Head teacher, Mr Joe Barker, explained: “Stockport is the fifth from the bottom out of 140 local authorities across the UK and has been for a long time.

“The way budgets are calculated currently means that there are inequalities both across the country and even in similar schools which are close to each other. For example our school has an average of £4,200 each year per student whereas a similar school in Manchester may have £5,200. Some of the UK’s better-funded schools have £7,500 per student which makes a huge difference in terms of teacher numbers and what schools can offer.”

The budget at Marple Hall, which could drop even further under the new draft funding formula, has been static for some time, despite rising costs in terms of staffing, building and grounds maintenance and other associated costs.

Mr Barker and his senior management team have worked hard to keep a tight rein on finances by not replacing staff when they have retired or left which puts extra pressure on existing teachers who may then have less time for lesson preparation. Other cost-cutting measures have included being prudent with grounds and building maintenance costs and renegotiating contracts, even down to window cleaning, wherever possible.

“We hoped that that new funding system would be fairer and we would receive more money but the way it has been worked out, we stand to lose even more, which is hard to believe,” said Mr Barker.

“Despite all this, we have a well-performing school with good results but what annoys me is how much more we could do for the students if the funding were fairer. 

“We are already very under-funded at Marple but the grading system for GCSEs has now changed which means students are not competing on a level playing field. Rather than being marked on skills demonstrated, as in the past, the top performing students in the country receive the top grade and so on. This means our students are in direct competition with those from the highest-funded schools which is definitely unfair.

“With fairer funding, we could have more teachers and better resources, so you have to ask the question how much more could we achieve? Annoyingly, students who may have narrowly missed out on a GCSE grade could have potentially done better if we had more resources,” he added.

Many Marple parents have signed an online petition and written to Prime Minister Teresa May demanding fairer funding and Hazel Grove MP, William Wragg, himself a former teacher, raised the matter in Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this year. He challenged aspects of the new draft funding formula and asked for more money for Stockport schools.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “The current draft does not address the inequalities and there is insufficient uplift for schools in our area.

“As well as the current underfunding, schools have the added pressures of rising pension, national insurance and other costs.

“I have always pushed for the best funding and this current proposal does not go far enough to address the inadequate funding in Stockport. However, despite this, we have very good schools in this area. We need an uplift in funding and I have asked for the situation to be looked at again,” he concluded.