WINCHESTER’S MP has raised the plight of schools in Winchester struggling with current levels of funding during a debate in Parliament.

Steve Brine held the debate last week, focusing on the issues of school funding, capital projects, teachers’ pensions, the work of PTAs and high needs funding in his constituency.

Commenting on the much-debate per-pupil funding scheme, Mr Brine said: “The truth is, it has created winners and losers depending on the size of the school, and this is a particular challenge for smaller rural schools.

“Concern is unanimous within the schools about the rising cost base, including the unpopular apprenticeship levy.

“Three of my secondary schools have told me that they have regrettably made staffing reductions in the past two years. Several told me about support workers, librarians and business managers not being replaced and about increasing science and maths class sizes.

“Kings’ School, which is ranked excellent, increased its intake by 24 pupils this year without increasing the number of classes, so tutor groups now have 30 pupils instead of 28. That increase in numbers has understandably undermined trust between the Winchester schools, putting something that we have called the Winchester schools teaching alliance in a fragile position and leading one secondary school to pull out of it altogether.”

The Chronicle understands the school that pulled out of the alliance is Henry Beaufort. The school has been approached for comment, but is yet to reply.

Mr Brine also raised the issue of high needs funding in the county following an increase in the needs of children. He said Hampshire had received an additional £6m over two years in block funding, but said it clearly cannot keep up with demand, leading to “a £10 million in year deficit at the LEA”.

He finished the debate by urging Schools Minister Nick Gibb and the incoming prime minister – either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt – to produce a long-term funded plan for schools.

In response, Mr Gibb said: “Our response to these pressures cannot simply be additional funding. That is why in December the secretary of state wrote to local authority chief executives and directors of children’s services to set out our plans. Those plans include reviewing current special educational needs content in initial teacher training provision.”