School Funding Formula: the New Proposals

Update September 2017

Gloucester MP welcomes extra school funding for Gloucester

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has welcomed the Education Secretary Justine Greening’s announcement on a new fair funding formula that will increase funding for Gloucester schools by 3.6%.

The Education Secretary made a statement outlining her response to the consultation on the new fair funding formula for schools on Thursday, publishing illustrative figures for schools across the country up to 2019-20. She accepted recommendations made by MPs including Richard to introduce a minimum level of funding per pupil (£4,800 for secondary school pupils and £3,500 for primary school pupils).

Richard said, “I’m delighted that the Education Secretary has listened to the views of schools, parents, teachers and MPs and introduced a minimum per pupil funding level. I met with the Education Secretary to discuss the initial plans, and she took on board our recommendations which will see all schools in Gloucester benefit.

We’re spending more on schools than ever before, in particular on pupils from deprived backgrounds as we should. So I welcome this announcement and hope it reassures the many parents who wrote to me on this issue.”
The proposed National Funding Formula aims to address historic imbalances where a student with the same needs (e.g. free school meals or from a deprived background) can attract some £500 more depending where the student goes to school.

The government pledged to introduce the national formula, and while the initial plans offered extra support for pupils with additional needs or for deprived backgrounds, MPs raised concerns about basic funding levels. This week’s announcement confirms a basic level of funding that gives every school in Gloucester an increase, with some getting over 9% extra per pupil.

The proposals will come into full force in 2019-2020 after a transitional year in 2018-2019. Find out more: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/fairer-funding-system-to-end-postcode-lottery-for-schools

The Government’s consultation on proposals for a new funding formula closed on 22 March 2017. This is both very important and very complicated – and with any final proposal it will be impossible to please everyone.

The problem with school funding is that no-one can easily explain it and it ends up with huge disparities in the amounts of funding for similar pupils in different parts of the country.

Basically this benefits metropolitan boroughs and cities, at the expense of poorer cities in well off counties, which is roughly Gloucester’s situation. This is unnecessarily complicated and certainly isn’t fair for much of the country. So the government made a pledge to resolve this with a simple new national formula which would explain clearly on what basis each school gets funded.

This required a basic level of funding for each child and then agreed factors, and weightings of those factors, for issues that influence children’s attainment at school to determine extra funding.

The government has proposed such a formula, and the main factors are low prior attainment, deprivation, mobility and English as a second language: alongside school and geographical cost factors.

It’s impossible to know exactly what income each school would get in 2018-19 as we don’t yet know how many pupils or e.g. how many are entitled to free school meals or have English as a second language in 2018-19. Extra or fewer pupils will change the figures: if a primary school, for example, is predicted to gain or lose £25,000 then 5 pupils more or less could see that change disappear.

However, based on this year’s entry, the estimates of the first stage of the proposed formula showed that Gloucester would gain £58,000 for primary schools and £256,000 for secondary schools: an overall increase of 0.4%.

But within that figure, which is an encouraging start, there were of course winners and losers.

The winners would be schools with lots of pupils with the characteristics that show they need extra help. So, for example Beaufort, St Peters and Severn Vale Secondary Schools are relative winners and the grammar schools relative losers. The primary schools which have the fewest pupils on free school meals and English as a second language would be more likely to do less well: e.g. Meadowside has 1.9% of pupils for whom English is a second language whereas Widden has 78%. The challenges for those two schools are very different.

So if a school was a potential relative loser in year one or two, it is understandable if the Head encouraged parents and staff to write to me: but some of the changes were not large as a percentage of turnover, and none over 3% per year. Many government departments (though not Health and Education at all) and all councils have had to reduce by much more.

As the son and brother of primary school Deputy Heads, I understand that schools will fight for every penny: but I also have to look at the bigger picture and the under-performing primaries in my constituency who will benefit, which will increase the chances of those pupils succeeding.

There are now 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools across the country than there were in 2010 and I would love every primary and secondary in our city to be in those categories. There have been some great successes but others need more help to get there.

Some constituents have asked me why the government is cutting education, but it isn’t. Health and education have been the most protected budgets since we inherited a public finance overspend of over £150 billion a year. The Government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, and this year over £40 billion is being spent on schools in this country. Any suggestion that we have ever spent MORE on schools is simply wrong.

Over time counties like ours will get more, and metropolitan areas relatively less. But that has to be done gradually, and constituents will know the pressures on other areas (whether health, social care, or welfare) while we try to get back to living within our means.

I had meetings with the other Gloucestershire MPs, the county council and also with ministers to try to find possible ways of improving the formula and its implementation. It was important to try and find a way through this if a) we want to fulfil the pledge and b) more importantly we want to prevent the inequality of the current situation from growing still further.

In July the government analysed the results of the consultation and announced an additional £1.3 billion for schools. This means that each secondary school pupil in Gloucester will get at least £4,800, and will help to ensure that no school is getting less money than now. This is great news for Gloucester schools and I look forward to seeing the specifics on funding allocations for each school in the Autumn.