County Hall clash on grammar school proposals

A county council motion calling for fairer funding for West Sussex schools descended into a heated argument about the pros and cons of grammar schools.

Saturday, 22nd October 2016, 7:13 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:12 am
Chichester's County Hall SUS-160818-125926001

Headteachers have been calling on the Government to introduce transitional funding until reforms of the national funding formula is brought in, as West Sussex schools are one of the most poorly funded per pupil across the country.

In their latest bid to make their case last week MPs, teachers, and pupils visited Downing Street last week.

James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East), leader of the Lib Dem group at West Sussex County Council, put forward a motion on Friday (October 21) calling on the Government to implement a fair funding formula as soon as possible, while also opposing the reorganisation and expense of setting up new grammar schools.

But part of the motion against any new grammar schools was defeated by a Conservative amendment.

Dr Walsh said: “To introduce grammar schools in West Sussex would be to divert money away from existing schools.”

Discussing the lobbying of Government by West Sussex’s Tory MP’s he added: “The tragedy is nobody is listening and we have a Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP as schools minister. They all have deaf ears.”

But Christine Field (Con, Lindfield and High Weald), deputy leader and cabinet member for community wellbeing, argued the county council had missed an opportunity to send a united message on school funding due to ‘political dogma’.

She added: “We need to send clear straight-forward message to this where we can make a difference that we need fair funding for education of our children full stop.”

Heidi Brunsdon (Con, Imberdown) said it was wrong to ‘vilify’ grammar schools and added: “I’m voting for fairer transitional funding, not against parental choice.”

Meanwhile Steve Waight (Con, Goring) added: “Children have got different skill sets and different types of education will bring the best out of those.”

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) warned that West Sussex schools were on a ‘precipice’, and felt the Government should be ‘utterly ashamed of this situation’.

Morwen Millson (LDem, Horsham Riverside) added: “The best way to improve opportunities for children is to make all the schools as good as they can be.”

Nigel Dennis (LDem, Horsham Hurst) suggested that some councillors were ‘snubbing many achievements of the comprehensive system in West Sussex, but Mike Glennon (UKIP, Lancing) felt grammar schools did have their place, and suggested they already had a two-tier education system due to private schools.

The part of the motion criticising grammar schools was defeated by 46 votes to 14 with one abstention.

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