Struggling schools are the best funded in Southend

Three Southend schools that have been struggling to improve standards received the highest amount of money per pupil than any other, new government figures show.

Data made public by the Department of Education shows a significant disparity in per-pupil funding across the borough’s 12 secondary schools with the most well-funded getting almost £2,000 more per pupil than the lowest.

It shows that in the past academic year, Southchurch High School ranks as the most well-funded, receiving £6,624 for each of its 555 pupils. Coming in behind Southchurch was Cecil Jones Academy with £6,101 and Chase High School with £5,904.

Together, the three schools have been struggling to improve standards and last year they were each given a share of £100,000 of additional funding by Southend Council.

Shoeburyness High School, which has 1,461 pupils – the largest in Southend – was the fourth most well-funded school with a per-pupil fund of £5,468.

At the other end of the scale is Westcliff High School for Boys Academy which received just £4,819 for its 869 students – the equivalent of 27 per cent less than Southchurch for each pupil.

Southend High School for Girls also received £4,819 and Westcliff High School for Girls received £4,820.

Councillor Dan Nelson (Con), who represents Southchurch, said: “You have a school on the one hand taking in some of the most deprived people in the borough and it helps fulfil their needs, including thing such as free school meals and special needs education.

“On the other hand, you have a school that only selects the brightest in the borough. They are chalk and cheese.

“Money needs to go where it is needed the most and at the end of the day Southchurch needs more per pupil than Southend High School for Girls.

“If the schools that needed it the most were getting less, I would be more concerned.”
Councillor Matt Dent (Lab), who is a member of the council’s People Scrutiny Committee and represents Kursaal, said: “The idea more money is going to schools that are struggling most is positive but overall there are deeper problems with how we fund education in this country.

“I think even the headteachers would say the most per pupil does not necessarily remove pressure as there is still an overriding need in schools.

“I hear all the time when I speak to residents that they are concerned that schools aren’t sufficiently funded.

The Government data also reveals that Southend’s most well-funded schools still fall well behind others in the county. This includes, the Basildon Upper Academy which received £7,169 in funding for each of its 324 pupils.

Last year, the Government announced a review of funding policy including a £14billion package that will see the minimum per pupil funding to rise from £4,800 at secondary schools to £5,000.

This will come into effect from April.

Cllr Dent added: “Any increase is to be welcomed but you need to look at this in the grander context of ten years of austerity and questions have to be asked. More is money welcome but is it enough?

“I think the government has for a while been bringing out this amount of money but it is rattling about in empty barrel, it is not on the scale needed.”

Headteachers at Chase High School and Southchurch High School were contacted for comment.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter