Councils call for say in schools funding to protect SEND pupils

CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Guardian

Children with special educational needs could lose out under government plans for a national funding formula for schools if there is no local input into education funding priorities, councils have warned, the Guardian.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, says it supports the introduction of a revised formula to address unfairness in the school funding system.

But it warns that setting budgets for England’s 22,000 schools from Whitehall “won’t work”, and calls on the government to allow local authorities a continuing role in local funding decisions in order to protect high needs children.

The warning comes after the government renewed its commitment to introduce a new and fairer funding formula for all schools in the wake of the general election.

Its first draft was not well received by some Tory backbenchers who argued that schools in their constituencies were being hard done by. This week the education secretary, Justine Greening, attempted to reassure anxious MPs, headteachers and parents that no school would lose money under the redistribution of funds.

Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Currently, there is a real fear amongst councils that a strict national funding formula will not reflect local need and that children could potentially miss out on receiving the education they deserve.

“This is particularly concerning for those with special educational needs and disability support as councils will no longer be able to make additional funding available under current plans.”

He went on: “The setting of school budgets works best when done at a local level, with councils working with head teachers, governors and schools forums to determine need and priorities.

“The government should allow councils to have some flexibility over how the national formula is implemented locally to ensure the widest possible success and acceptance.”

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the whole point of having a new national funding formula was to eliminate the postcode lottery that currently determines how funding is allocated to schools.

“Historic variations in the funding level to local authorities from central government, combined with 150 local authorities allocating money in different ways, has led to similar schools in different areas receiving significantly different funding.

“This is precisely what we should be trying to get away from. If, under a new formula, local authorities were given the power to change the funding distribution, we will simply go back to square one.”

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