The education secretary has reassured school leaders her department is doing all it can to bring in a national fair funding model – but warned it will not be ready until September 2017 at the earliest.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan fielded questions from governors – mostly over funding issues – at the National Governors’ Association’s summer conference in Manchester on Saturday.
Asked when a national fair funding formula would be introduced, Ms Morgan said: “I’m well aware of issues of inequity in our funding system. We made a manifesto commitment to implement fairer funding.
“It can’t be right there are thousands of pounds difference between neighbouring authorities and we have to iron this out.
“We took the first step with approving the additional £390m to the lowest funded authorities. We are working on it.
“We have to come up with the right system. We’ve already made the case on the need to restore balance and have proper fairness in the funding formula.
“But it’s not straight forward and in a climate where you don’t have lots of money, we have to do this in a way that deals with the problems but doesn’t cause lots of turbulence. We will have to look at the impact on areas that have been overly funded.
“We also want to look at high needs funding and we are working hard. We will then have to consult on it.
“It would be tough to do it for 2016-17 as we don’t want to rush it, but then we are looking at how quickly we can bring it in thereafter. I’m determined we will make progress on this.”
The education secretary, becoming the first secretary of state to speak at a governor association conference, also reaffirmed that the Government’s crackdown on “coasting schools” does not mean automatic academisation and sacking heads.
Just days earlier Prime Minister David Cameron outlined a “zero tolerance” approach to “failure” in education, warning even good schools could face government intervention.
But Ms Morgan said: “I want to be very clear – our commitment to improving coasting schools doesn’t mean automatically sacking heads and governors, nor does it mean automatic academisation.
“What it does mean is that we will expect to see – from the leadership and governors of the schools in question – a clear and sufficient plan for improvement.
“It means that, having developed this plan, schools in this category will potentially work with national leaders of education to get themselves back on track.
“And let me be clear – it is only where schools prove themselves unable to do this, that regional school commissioners will consider if the leadership needs to be changed.”
She said new measures under the Education and Adoption Bill will allow the Government to intervene from “day one, by closing loopholes that have previously been exploited by those ideologically opposed to academy status to stop desperately needed improvements in schools.
“But – and I say this again – we will only improve schools and tackle both failure and coasting performance by using the expertise of those who know how to get it right.
“Academy sponsors have huge amounts to offer here, and we will not shy away from opening more sponsored academies where schools are ‘inadequate’.
“But the other group of people who have the skills and expertise are the people in this room. People like yourselves who know how to make governance work well, and know how to improve schools, are hugely important too.”