School funding ‘a postcode lottery’

Published: Monday 16th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Schools are facing a “postcode lottery” in funding, with some likely to receive almost £2 million less than others over the next year, head teachers have warned.

This funding gap is enough to pay for around 40 teachers, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

The union blamed the gulf on a “historic grant system that does not work” and said it is calling for a new, national fair funding formula to ensure schools are handed the money they need.

“School funding is a postcode lottery,” ASCL deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said.

“In many areas, schools receive inadequate funding because of a historic grant system that does not work. Instead of reforming the system, successive governments have tinkered with it and failed to fully resolve the problem.

“It means that many schools must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.”

This is unfair on the schools, students and their families, Mr Trobe argued.

” It is no way to run an education system that everybody wants to be the best in the world.”

According to an analysis carried out by the union, schools in the 10 best funded areas of England are set to get £6,297 per pupil in 2015/16, compared to £4,208 per student in the 10 worst funded areas.

It said that this means a typical state secondary school teaching 920 students in the most well-funded areas would receive a budget of around £5.8 million, compared to £3.9 million in the most poorly funded – a gap of £1.9 million.

This is enough to pay the salaries and pension contributions of 40 full time teachers, ASCL calculated.

Mr Trobe said: “Funding levels rightly take into account levels of deprivation, and those in London also receive weighting for the higher costs they face. These factors account for some of the variation in funding levels.

“However, the underlying problem continues to be that funding is still impacted by historical factors going back to the 1980s when government grants were allocated to local authorities according to the amount they had traditionally spent on education.

“This means that funding inequities which existed then were enshrined in the system, and this has been a continuing problem ever since, resulting in inconsistencies across the country.”

ASCL’s figures, published ahead of its annual conference in London later this week, give Wokingham as the most under-funded area, with schools expected to get £4,158 per pupil in 2015/16. This is followed by Poole at £4,194 per pupil and then South Gloucestershire at £4,196 per student.

The union did not give details of the best funded areas, but Government data giving figures for all areas shows that London boroughs are among the best funded per pupil under what is described as “fairer schools funding”.

These statistics, excluding City of London, give Tower Hamlets as the best funded area at £7,014 per pupil, followed by Hackney at £6,680 and Lambeth at £6,384. Outside of the capital, the most well-funded area per pupil is Nottingham at £5,309.

Suzanne Richards, headteacher of The Holt School in Wokingham, said she had concerns about funding, with her school’s budget falling by £200,000 since 2011/12.

“We expect a cut this year of £150,000, with more to follow, yet nationally we are told education funding is not being cut,” she said.

“Other local secondary schools are similarly affected and we are all working with our local authority to establish an independent review of why this is happening.

“We are having to review all costs, contracts and staffing in all areas. There have sadly been some staff redundancies already and only essential staff are being replaced if anyone leaves voluntarily.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “As part of our plan for education, we have protected the schools budget, allowing us to ensure all local authorities are receiving the same initial basic amount per pupil as in 2010, and have committed to introducing a national funding formula after the next spending review.

“We have put an extra £390 million into the schools budget for 2015-16 to increase the per-pupil budgets of the 69 least fairly funded areas.

“This will, for the first time, mean a minimum level of funding for councils based on the characteristics of their pupils and schools, and is the biggest step towards fairer funding in a decade.

“In addition, the Pupil Premium – now worth £2.5 billion this year to schools – is ensuring teachers continue to have the resources they need to give all pupils the best possible start at school, regardless of their background.”

A national funding formula distributes money according to need, which means areas will always receive different levels of funding depending on characteristics such as deprivation, the DfE said.

Published: Monday 16th March 2015 by The News Editor

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