School funding will be delivered via a national funding formula from 2017, the terms of which will be established during a series of consultations launched by the education secretary today.
The proposals will end 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. Such discrepancies exist because funds are still distributed on the basis of historic calculations made when the demography of some regions looked very different to now.
Today’s consultation proposes giving schools a flat per-pupil fund and topping it up based on individual pupil needs (such as low attainment), “school costs” and “area costs”.
In a statement, Nicky Morgan said the funding formula will be “the biggest step towards fairer funding in over a decade – ensuring that pupils get funding that genuinely matches their need”.
She added that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will “continue to receive significant additional funding to overcome entrenched barriers to their success”. The Conservative Party promised in its manifesto at last year’s general election to continue funding the Pupil Premium, an additional top-up fund for children on free school meals.
The role of local authorities
The planned change means that local authorities (LAs) will play a diminished role in the handing out of school funds. At present, LAs are able to decide how school funds are distributed across a local area, which can lead to large discrepancies.
According to the government, a secondary pupil with low prior attainment attracts £2,248 of additional funding in a Birmingham school, compared to just £36 in Darlington. In other local authorities, these pupils do not attract any additional funding.
However, the education secretary said that local authorities will continue playing “a vital role in the distribution of high needs funding as they are best placed to make important local decisions about children with special educational needs and disabilities”.
What will be in the national funding formula?
The consultation proposes four factors be taken into account when allocating school funding:
Basic per pupil funding – a core allocation for the cost of teaching all pupils
Funding for additional needs – including deprivation, low prior attainment and English as an additional language
School costs – including fixed costs and those related to schools serving rural communities
Area costs – ensuring that additional funding goes to schools in parts of the country where costs for infrastructure are highest
What is the timescale for change?
The government has said this initial consultation will agree the factors to be included in the formula. Once those have been determined, a further consultation will seek views on the weighting of the various factors. It is only in the later consultation that the full impact of the formula on areas across the country will be revealed.
Several senior political figures, including Councillor Ivan Ould – chair of the f40 campaign which has fought for the formula changes – last week speculated that concerns over the London mayoral elections were delaying announcements about the formula. It is believed London boroughs could be among the biggest losers in the formula changes.
A Department for Education spokesperson said at the time that the allegations were “irresponsible” adding that the government was due to consult and would be encouraging people to take part.
Spreading cash, but not adding to it
Although the re-distribution of money has been welcomed by many school leaders, primary head teacher Lyn Knapp last week warned a Westminster conference that budgetary pressures were growing – and without more cash finding its way into education, rather than existing funds being redistributed, schools would struggle.
Changes to national insurance and pensions have cost her school an extra £88,000 per year but no extra money is forthcoming. The government has so far only pledged to maintain and protect school spending until 2020, but not increase it.
The consultation can be viewed here.