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October 2, 2012 3:37 PM

Tim Farron MP at Kendal Nursery SchoolSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has today discussed the potential local school funding crisis with Education Minister David Laws MP, describing the talks as 'positive'.

Tim had a 30 minute phone call with the minister and senior civil servants to discuss the funding issue. During the call Tim asked for the Department of Education to intervene to protect Cumbrian schools. He also asked for civil servants to open discussions with Cumbria County Council to provide help and advice.

During the call Tim pressed for:

1) The County Council to be allowed to apply an additional factor which reflects the cost of operating in sparse areas where a cash sum could be allocated to cover these costs. The allocations would be based on objective criteria, reflecting the unique circumstances of each affected school and would be recommended to the local authority through the Schools Forum. This is consistent with the methodology for determining the "split site".

2) There being three, rather than two years of protection through the minimum funding guarantee to enable measured planning, consultation and preparation to take place in implementing the new arrangements.

The new rules implemented by the Department for Education allow the council to make a local decision about the allocation of a lump sum of cash of between £0 and £200,000 to all schools. This lump sum has to be same for all schools, secondary or primary. Some schools could potentially lose up to 31 per cent, while some could be budget winners, gaining up to 25 per cent.

The council is required by law to lodge its funding formula with the Department for Education by 31st October. The council has launched a consultation process, but has come under criticism from local people for leaving it to the last minute and causing panic in schools. In comparison, neighbouring Liberal Democrat controlled Northumberland started its consultation process back in July.

During the call David Laws agreed to attend a meeting chaired by Tim to discuss the issue with the county's six MPs and Eddie Martin the leader of Cumbria County Council.

Tim said: "This morning I went to speak to one of the local schools worst affected by the funding changes to listen to teachers' concerns. I found the discussion positive, but there is more to do. The government must take on board our concerns and work with us to fix this issue. It's vital that the county council listen closely to our schools, so that they propose a formula that best suits our area. We need to keep up the pressure to make sure that we defend our local schools."