Education committee chair seeks answers over national funding formula consultation “delay”

The government has admitted it is not yet in a position to release details of its first consultation on the national fair funding formula – fuelling more concerns that its implementation in schools will be delayed.

Neil Carmichael, chair of the House of Commons education committee, has written to childcare minister Sam Gyimah to outline “regrets” the department is not yet ready to publish the findings of its preliminary consultation on the formula – which aims to end historical inequalities in school funding.

The department is yet to launch a second consultation – which would reveal more details of the formula and would show which schools are likely to lose or gain cash. The government plans to introduce the formula in schools in 2017.

It is not clear when the second consultation was planned to launch, but Carmichael said “if this delay in launching the second phase of consultation impacts upon the Government’s timetable for introducing reformed arrangements for funding, it is vital that Parliament … has the opportunity to consider the consequences.”

Carmichael had hoped Gyimah would be able to discuss the proposals with the committee at a public hearing on Wednesday.

However, the committee will now meet with Gyimah for a “private briefing on the latest policy thinking”.

Publication of the letters yesterday follows concerns by policy experts, reported in Schools Week today, who fear the formula will be pushed back until 2018, at the earliest.

Some said it may even by dropped completely, along with other major reform policies unveiled in the recent white paper.

However the government has said it is “business as usual”.

Gyimah, in a letter to Carmichael, said the first consultation had received an “unprecedented response”.

“More than 6,000 individuals and organisations responded to our proposals across both schools and high needs, expressing a wide range of views. As I am sure you can appreciate, analysing and considering this number of responses has been a significant risk.

“I am therefore unfortunately not yet in position to confirm the outcome to our first stage consultation or how this will influence our proposals in the second stage.”

The formula is aimed at ending historical inequalities in the funding system, which have led to schools in some parts of the country receiving an average of £6,300 per pupil while others get as little as £4,200.

The government had planned to implement the formula in 2017.

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