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Devon County Council to lobby Michael Gove

Devon County Council (DCC) is to lobby Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, in London on October 26. The DCC Cabinet Member for Schools and Skills, Christine Channon is to take her concerns over a range of issues directly to the top.

The Council has announced:

[Christine Channon] is planning to raise a series of issues with the Education Secretary including:

• Fair funding for Devon’s schools
• The need for replacement schemes at the schools which lost out on funding under the Building Schools for the Future scheme
• The shortage of primary school places in Exeter

Mrs Channon will be one of nine council leaders and children’s services’ lead politicians invited by Mr Gove to share their views and concerns with him at a top level meeting. She said: “The current funding system for schools sees Devon sitting 148th out of 151 local authorities. Every child in a Devon school is now worth £4,005 compared with a national average of £4,398 – a difference of £393. At a time when the financial cake for all public services is diminishing, it is vitally important that Devon schools get their fair share.”

The Department for Education is currently looking at the funding formula for schools from 2011 and how it distributes the Government’s new Pupil Premium for the most disadvantaged children.

Mrs Channon said: “There is no doubt Devon’s pupils are being penalised as its rural deprivation issues have not been recognised by the existing indicators and the challenges of rural sparsity are inadequately funded.”

The withdrawal of the BSF scheme earlier this year meant plans for new and refurbished buildings at Ilfracombe, Tiverton, and Chulmleigh secondary schools and Marland special school in Torrington were put on hold.

Mrs Channon said: “Labour’s BSF scheme was hugely bureaucratic and unnecessarily expensive to administer.

“However the very real need for new buildings at these four Devon schools still remains. I will be emphasising to Michael Gove that whatever scheme he puts in place to fund school building, these schools have a very good case to be at the head of the queue.”

To illustrate their need, Mrs Channon will be presenting Mr Gove with a DVD of the pupils and staff at the schools outlining the specific areas in their buildings which require modernisation.

She will also bring him up to date with the urgent need for more school places in Exeter. The rise in births in the city over the last 10 years and more new housing development is putting an increasing strain on school places.

There are very few places in Reception and Key Stage 1 for the youngest children and the city’s five secondary schools are forecast to be full within 10 years.

Mrs Channon is meeting Exeter headteachers this term to discuss ways of solving the growing demand for places. “We need to have a clear plan for how we accommodate the rising school population in Exeter in the short term as well as looking ahead to a long-term vision,“ she said.

“But that requires funding from the Government to support what is called basic need so that we can provide sufficient places for the growing number of young children.”

Published by DCO. © Copyright 2009, 2010 DCO.