Extra money for the poorest-funded schools


An extra £350 million of funding is to be available in 2015-16 to those local authorities in at the lower end of the school funding league table, which means schools in different local authority areas will continue to receive different amounts per pupil.

Announcing the extra £350m, Schools Minister David Laws said 40% of these areas would gain funding in 2015-16 and none would have less per pupil. But he said steps taken in 2013-14 and 2014-15 meant the system was already fairer, with 80% of funds now allocated on the basis of pupil numbers alone.

Mr Laws said:  "This will be the first time in a decade that funding has been allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools, rather than simply on the basis of historic levels of spending."

"Given the importance to schools of stability and certainty in these difficult economic times, we have decided not to set out a multi-year process of converging all local authorities towards a single funding formula.

"We have concluded that the right time to do this would be when there are multi-year public spending plans, so we can give greater certainty to schools.

"But the case for action is so strong that we intend to act immediately to deliver a substantial £350m boost to schools in the least fairly funded local authorities in the country.

"We will be able to achieve this without any local authority receiving a cut to its per-pupil schools budget."

Ivan Ould, the chair of the Campaign group f40, which represents the local authorities with the poorest funded schools in England, said: “The Coalition Government is the first administration in the past 20 years to even acknowledge that the existing formula is unfair and inequitable, so we are pleased that it has now acted to start to rectify the situation."

However, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says the budget increases will be swallowed up by rises in pension contributions and salaries, because schools have faced "four years of static or falling funding, coupled with rising costs".

Deputy general secretary, Malcolm Trobe, said: "We welcome the minimum per-pupil funding guarantee to help those areas that historically have been the lowest-funded. This raising up of the basic funding level in these low-funded areas is a useful step towards a national fair funding formula.

"However, the reality is that all schools and colleges will have a huge hole in their budgets caused by the pensions contribution rise. This will have a catastrophic effect and lead to larger class sizes and reduced curriculum choice.

"We want the government to ensure that this increase in contributions is fully funded so that children's education is not compromised."

A Department for Education spokesman said the announced budget would remove the historic unfairness of the funding system and was the biggest step toward fairer funding in a decade.

He said: "Crucially, we have ensured no local authority will see a reduction in its budget, while 62 local authorities will get a cash boost.

"Our protection of the schools budget means schools are well positioned to cope with the reform of employer pension contributions that is taking place across the public sector."

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