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Government Launches Consultation On National Schools Funding Formula

  • Government Launches Consultation On National Schools Funding Formula

The government has published a set of proposals that will see reforms to the way funding for schools is distributed.

The government intends to allocate school funding according to consistent national formula, which would take effect from 2017/18. The new system will seek to ensure that every school in England will be funded according to need, irrespective of their location – in contrast to what the government describes as a present situation where funding discrepancies exist between similarly-sized schools with comparable intakes in different parts of the country due to an ‘accident of history’.

The new system would also sideline the role of local authorities (LAs) in allocating funding to schools, with funding instead going ‘straight to the frontline’ in a manner that will give headteachers more certainty over their budgets in the long term.

LAs will, however, receive funding to help deliver support for young people with high level SEN. This will also be worked out according to a national formula, so as to ensure that families don’t lose out on provision due living in a particular area.

“Biggest step in over a decade”

Commenting on the plans, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said, “The introduction of a national funding formula from 2017 to 2018 will see the biggest step towards fairer funding in over a decade – ensuring that pupils get funding that genuinely matches their need. It will also ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to receive significant additional funding to overcome entrenched barriers to their success…

“Local authorities will continue to play 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.”

Two consultations have now been launched – one seeking views on the proposed schools national funding formula, and another on the government’s reform to high needs funding, both of which will run until 17th April 2016. A further consultation on a national funding formula for early years funding will be launched later in the year.

“Formula must prioritise deprived areas”

Responding to the announcement, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates remarked that, ““It is unlikely that anyone would argue against the principle that the funding system for schools should be fair, but the devil will be in the detail and schools, teachers and parents will be desperate to know how the proposals will affect them. It is particularly unfortunate that ministers appear to be pre-empting some critically important issues in relation to the future funding of schools, not least with regard to the future role of local authorities.

“A funding system for schools that is capable of recognising local needs and circumstances and which is democratically accountable must be the best way to ensure that the needs of children and young people across very different contexts and circumstances are met.”

Echoing those sentiments was ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted, who said, ““We caution David Cameron and Nicky Morgan about reducing the role of local authorities in school funding. The Government has already struggled to manage the huge centralisation of the academies programme, which has taken power and supervision of education away from local communities, and the Department for Education does not have a good track record managing its own accounts.” She further noted that, “A new funding formula must prioritise the most deprived areas, rather than be based on pleasing politicians who want their schools to have the same cut of the pie, no matter how well-off or high achieving their area may be.”

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the ASCL, meanwhile, observed that,“The Government proposes to remove the role of local authorities in determining how national funding is allocated to schools. We largely support this proposal, but would recommend some allowance for specific local factors. For instance, some schools may have higher additional costs than others because of their specific circumstances such as multiple sites or their buildings are in very poor condition and require more maintenance. The new system must retain some role for local decision-making to take account of these factors.”

In response to the proposals for high-needs funding reform, Kate Fitch – head of public policy at the disability charity Sense – noted that, “Sense welcomes the government’s commitment to developing a new single funding formula for schools and introducing reforms to high needs funding.  However, we believe that the Government should use the consultation as an opportunity to address the differences in the way schools and early years settings are funded, and to make sure they can meet the additional costs of provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Reform to the Early Years Single Funding Formula must recognise that there are additional costs for providers offering places to children with additional needs and enable them to meet these in a timely way so that all children get the best support possible.”

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