CREDIT: This story was first seen in TES
The national funding formula for schools would give too much money to disadvantaged pupils and risks “replacing one unfairness with another”, according to the lowest-funded education authorities.
TES reports that the f40 group – which campaigns for a better deal on behalf of such authorities – has written to prime minister Theresa May to warn her that the government’s proposed formula “seems to be weighted more towards maintaining stability than achieving fairness”.
In particular, the group is concerned that the formula is too heavily weighted towards “additional needs factors” such as the number of pupils from deprived backgrounds, their level of prior attainment and the number who speak English as an additional language.
This does not leave enough money for schools’ “core responsibilities”, the group says. It says the funding formula allocates 72.5% of funding for the core budget, which is “simply too low”, and argues this should be be raised to 75%.
Grammar school heads have also said that the formula places too much weight on pupils’ deprivation levels, warning that this will leave their schools with too little money to carry out outreach work with disadvantaged primary pupils.
However, schools with the most disadvantaged pupils are facing the biggest funding squeeze, according to research taking into account the funding formula changes and real-terms cuts.
Pupil-premium funding is not included in the funding formula, meaning that the deprivation-related money “could be considered as double funding”, the f40’s letter states.
The letter also argues that the formula’s proposed “floor”, which prevents any school from losing more than 3 per cent of its funding due to the formula, is unfair, because it “locks in” the unfair distribution of education money.
For example, f40 says, one London borough has 87 schools and the “floor” provides for an extra £539 per pupil, meaning a typical secondary school would receive £665,000 more than the same school in many f40 member authorities.
The letter states: “That’s in addition to the inflated allowance for additional needs and in addition to the area cost adjustment. The difference buys about a dozen teachers and the difference is built in to the funding model in perpetuity.”
The f40 group also wants more local flexibility for councils to decide how to allocate money to schools in their areas.
The letter adds that, although the formula is about the distribution of funding and not the total amount available, the government needs to address the severe squeeze that schools are faced with.
It says: “Schools in lower-funded areas have been making cuts for many years now and have reached the limit of where cuts can be made. We recognise the work that the Department for Education has undertaken in supporting schools in making efficiencies, but we are struggling to understand where more cuts can be made in the lowest-funded authorities.
“On top of this, all schools are facing significant additional costs which the government does not intend to pay for, including the removal of the Education Support Grant later this year.”
The government’s consultation on the funding formula ends on 22 March. The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.