A prominent accountant and former chair of the Care Quality Commission has been appointed to lead a formal review of the funding gaffe that saw £370 million cut from schools’ indicative budgets.
Schools minister Nick Gibb announced in a statement today that Peter Wyman, chair of NHS Blood and Transplant, would lead the investigation into the quality assurance process surrounding the calculation of the national funding formula for schools.
A former government special adviser and PWC accountant, Wyman also chaired an independent review of debt funding advice in 2018.
On October 6, the Department for Education admitted it had inflated the schools budget for 2024-25 by 0.62 per cent after miscalculating pupil numbers. It means schools will receive £370 million less than they were originally told in July.
DfE permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood apologised at the time. Education secretary Gillian Keegan asked her to conduct a formal review of processes “with external and independent scrutiny”.
Today’s statement was issued because the error was announced while Parliament was in recess for party conference season. That means today is the “earliest opportunity” for ministers to inform the Commons and Lords of the issue.
Error correction ‘frustrating’, admits Gibb
Gibb said he recognised “that the correction of the NFF error will be difficult for local authorities and frustrating for some school leaders, which is why the department has rectified the error as quickly as possible”.
“The department is working closely with school stakeholders, including unions, to communicate this change and support schools and local authorities.”
Unions warned that schools were facing “the very real prospect of cuts to provision”, and headteachers warned they faced having to shelve plans to boost staff, run more trips and improve SEND provision.
They called on ministers to honour the error, which would have increased school funding by 2.7 per cent per pupil.
But in his response, Gibb confirmed the government was proceeding with a planned 1.9 per cent increase in per-pupil funding.