Fair funding for all schools

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Headteachers have welcomed a Government consultation on how school funding can be made fairer.

The consultation seeks the views of parents, teachers, schools, unions and local authorities about the current system, and asks whether a new system would result in a fairer outcome for schools.

The consultation is the first part of a two-stage process. Taking into account these views, further proposals will be published for consultation later this year.

As it stands, the school funding system creates large variations in how much money similar schools in different parts of the country receive. Funding is based on historic calculations - some dating back to at least 2005 - that bear little resemblance to the needs of schools and their pupils today. 

For example:

  • Similar primary schools’ funding can vary by as much as £1,300 per pupil. Similar secondary schools’ funding can vary by as much as £1,800 per pupil. In a secondary school of 1,000 pupils, that is a difference of around £1.8 million. This could pay for around 40 extra teachers.
  • In one local authority, a school with 43 per cent of its pupils eligible for free school meals received £3,367 per pupil. In another local authority, a school with only 10 per cent of its pupils eligible for free school meals received £4,032 per pupil. This is a difference of £655 per pupil.
  • The system cannot respond to changes in the types of children living in certain areas. In Peterborough, for example, the number of children who speak English as an additional language has risen by 60 per cent since 2005. This significant change will not have been reflected properly in the funding system.

Schools Minister Lord Hill said: "Headteachers tell us that the current funding system is unfair and illogical. In some cases it means a child living in one part of the country can be funded up to £1,800 more than a child with similar needs living elsewhere. Having a fairer system is not just right in principle. It would enable parents to see more clearly how schools are doing with the funding they receive.

"Addressing the disparities and inequalities within our school system is a top priority. This consultation is the first step to ensuring fairer funding for all."

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: "The time is right for a debate on a new funding system. The significant differences in funding between schools of the same size and intake cannot be justified and the current system is far too complicated. Funding must be consistent across schools if accountability is to be fair. We are under no illusions about the challenge and risk, especially in times of financial constraint, but it is a conversation worth having.

"We need to think carefully about how we protect small schools that are so clearly valued by their communities, how we avoid turbulence and how we manage any transition."

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