Schools

Publish funding allocations to academies, MPs tell DfE

Report finds it is 'not possible' to tell if ministers are living up to their commitments

Report finds it is 'not possible' to tell if ministers are living up to their commitments

A magnifying glass over money

The government should publish the exact amount of per-pupil funding in every academy, MPs have said.

A report today also found it was “not possible” to tell if ministers were living up to their commitments.

Boris Johnson promised last January that every school would receive minimum funding of £3,750 per primary pupil and £5,000 per secondary pupil in 2020-21.

But the parliamentary public accounts committee found that although councils were legally required to ensure their maintained schools received the minimum funding levels, academy trusts could pool the funding and did not have to provide each school with the minimum.

As a result, it was not possible to tell whether individual academy schools received the government’s guaranteed minimum per-pupil funding.

The committee said the Department for Education should publish “annual details, starting with the year ending August 31 2021, of the schools’ block per-pupil funding that each academy received”.

No ‘grip’ on impact of shrinking school rolls

The report also warned that the DfE “does not seem to have a grip on the impact of falling rolls on schools”.

It found schools with dwindling rolls due to changes in local populations still had to cover fixed costs, while their funding fell “significantly”.

The DfE highlighted a “falling rolls fund” for local authorities and the lump sum handed to all schools through the national funding formula.

But the report found the department “does not appear to have a strong understanding of the practical financial impact of falling rolls on individual schools”.

The department should carry out an “evidence-based assessment of whether there is enough support for schools whose rolls are falling”, and write to the committee by the end of next March “with an update on the results of its assessment and what it is doing to address any concerns”, the report said.

‘Lack of urgency’ in school improvement efforts

The PAC report also pointed to the findings of an earlier report by the National Audit Office, which warned in July that the national funding formula had shifted cash from deprived schools to their more affluent counterparts, sparking warnings ministers are “taking from the poor and giving to the rich”

Before moving towards a hard national funding formula, the department should publish an “assessment of the likely impact of the proposed changes on individual schools and different types of schools”, the PAC report said.

The report also warned of a “lack of urgency” in the DfE’s approach to making improvements to the school system.

Delivery of a number of its initiatives has “slipped”, with the department “unwilling or unable to commit to revised timetables”.

One example is the SEND review, which has faced “unacceptable” delays since it was announced in September 2019, leaving more and more pupils “without the support they need”.

The department should “write to us, within a month of this report being published, with details of the progress it has made towards finalising the SEND review”, the report said.

MPs demand ‘timetable’ for £30k salary pledge

The PAC also called on the DfE to “set out a timetable” for meeting its pledge to raise teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000. This was supposed to happen by 2023, but was delayed by the pay freeze announced at last year’s spending review.

The report also warned that schools are having to “cross-subsidise their sixth forms with funding intended to support younger pupils”.

MPs found that between 2014-15 and 2020-21, the balance of funding “shifted from secondary schools to primary schools”.

Secondary school funding per pupil dropped by 3.9 per cent in real terms, while primary school funding increased by 4.2 per cent, the report said.

“Part of the reason for this was that the Department reduced funding per sixth-form student, which fell by 11.4 per cent in real terms.”

The report recommended that in “making and communicating decisions” about school funding, the department should “explicitly consider how different funding streams interact so that schools do not have to cross-subsidise, for example, in order to support sixth-form provision”.

DfE says NFF replaced ‘unfair’ system

A DfE spokesperson said the national funding formula “replaced a system which was unfair, untransparent and out of date where similar schools and local areas received very different levels of funding, with little or no justification”. 

The funding system “now ensures resources are delivered where they are needed the most”, they added.

“The government continues to invest in education to ensure young people all over England, including from the most deprived areas, leave school better educated, better skilled and ready for the world of work.”

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