New Funding Formula misses the mark


The Education Secretary’s much delayed and anticipated national funding formula has finally been published, but critics say many schools will be worse off.

The funding formula, which was pushed back a year from the planned implementation date of 2017, was expected to provide a fairer system of funding distribution across the UK. It does not introduce or remove funding from the UK as a whole, but instead decides how the total should be divided.

The new formula scraps disparities in the current system, where one school can get almost double the funding of another, based on location alone. The Education Secretary, Ms Greening, said that this will bring an end to “the historical unfairness and underfunding for certain schools”, likening the previous system to a postcode lottery.

As a result, Ms Greening says, more than 10,000 schools will receive an increase to their funding, while losses elsewhere would be limited to no more than 3% in per pupil funding.

But Adrian Prandle, director of economic strategy at the ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers), argued that this obscured the actual impact of the real cuts schools would face, and that we could expect to see 90% of schools suffer a loss to their funding instead.
Numbers from the National Audit watchdog supported this claim, as the true depth of the cuts for all schools in England would be at least 8% in funding per pupil by 2019, once £3bn is slashed from the national education budget – this would be on top of cuts from the new formula, and could easily cancel out any increased funding.

The Local Government Association (LGA) pointed out that the schools that stood to lose the most were unprepared for such a drastic change, and called for the changes to be carried out gradually instead: “…whilst an injection of extra money for some schools will be fantastic news, others will see significant reductions. It is absolutely essential that the new formula is phased in over time to protect those schools that will face these reductions.”

Inner-city centres are expected to be the areas worst affected – most schools in London, Birmingham and Manchester will experience reduced funding, whereas rural or suburban areas stand to gain the most.

Schools that are already near the breaking point fear this will necessitate staff cuts and stopping extracurricular services. Heads in West Sussex have even suggested reducing school hours.

Teaching unions have always advocated a fairer distribution of education funding, but remained sceptical that the new formula would solve budget concerns, and that it may instead simply exacerbate them.

The day before Ms Greening’s announcement, the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders), ATL, NAHT (National Assocation of Headteachers), NUT (National Union of Teachers) and Voice issued a joint statement on education funding, warning that the government would need to provide additional resources to support any changes to school funding, which they already consider insufficient.

In a statement following the publication of the new funding formula, Russell Hobby, general secretary the NAHT, said that their prior stance remained unchanged: "School funding is not sufficient. A change in how funding is distributed is important but it will not solve this fundamental lack of investment. We look forward to engaging with the detail of the formula, and we certainly welcome some aspects of the new design, but we also need to see greater money coming in to education in the first place."