National Funding for schools to change in 2015-16

24 Apr

The government has acknowledged that the current school funding system is unfair and must change.  It has, at last, decided to take action to address sins of omission and commission.     The disparity in secondary pupil funding from one authority (possibly in an inner-city area) to another (probably in a shire county) can be as much as £3,000 per annum.

As part of the change, additional funds will be made available to the least fairly funded local authorities.  Funding will be allocated on “the actual characteristics of a local authority’s pupils and schools rather than simply their historical levels of spending.  However, no local authority of school will receive less funding as a result, states the consultation paper issued by the Department of Education, for which stakeholders are invited to comment by 30 April 2014.  (See here.)

While the government takes steps to establish a national funding formula, Councils will continue to have discretion in determining local variations to the distribution of budget shares to its schools.   The proposals relate to the financial year 2015/16. Beyond that, it will be up to the next government to making financial decisions based on its spending review of services across all sectors.

In order to protect potential losers and ensure that, as far as possible, needy pupils (and schools) are given the best possible deal, the government will be allocating an additional £350 million.  A minimum funding level will be allocated to each authority. Where an LA already receives the minimum, no change will be made.   Where it receives less, more money will be allocated.

The minimum funding level will be established using five characteristics:

(i)         a per pupil amount – age weighted;

(ii)        pupils from deprived backgrounds;

(iii)       pupils who have been local-after by the local authority;

(iv)       pupils with low attainment before starting at either their primary or secondary schools; and

(v)        pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL)

In addition, the government will use two other school characteristics:

(i)         a minimum funding level for each school on top of its per-pupil funding (a “lump sum”) and

(ii)        a minimum funding level for small schools, which is essential to schools in rural areas (a “sparsity sum”).

The indicative minimum funding levels set out in the consultation are as follows.

(i)         A basic per pupil amount – primary: £2,845; key stage 3: £3,951; key stage 4; £4,529

(ii)        Deprivation – between £893 and £1,974

(iii)       Looked-after children – £1,009

(iv)       Low prior attainment – primary: £878; secondary: £1,961

(v)        English as an additional language – primary: £505; secondary: £1,216

(vi)       A lump sum for every school – primary: £117,082; secondary: £128,189

(vii)      Additional sparsity sum for small schools serving rural communities – up to £53,988 – with higher labour costs (i.e. staff salaries).

The consultation paper describes how authorities that would suffer adversely by the formula will have extra allocated to attain a minimum level of funding through a formula.

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