'Historic' schools funding change confirmed

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“Historic” changes to the schools funding formula will make it fairer and more transparent, Education Secretary Justine Greening has told MPs.

She said the new national formula would distribute money based on schools’ “individual needs and characteristics”.

She was increasing the basic level of funding schools would get per pupil – with a minimum level of £3,500 for primary schools by 2019-20, she said.

But Labour said it would still mean a real terms cut, due to inflation.

The new national funding formula was announced by the education secretary last December, following years of complaints that schools in different parts of the country were receiving different levels of per pupil funding.

‘Outdated system’

Ms Greening told MPs on Thursday it was a “historic reform” that would address “inequities in funding that have existed for far too long” and would “direct resources where they are most needed”.

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Funding changes have provoked an angry response in some areas

She said “when Coventry receives £510 more per pupil than Plymouth, despite having equal proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals”, it was clear the formula had to change.

She told MPs: “The formula will replace the outdated funding system which has seen children have very different amounts invested in their education purely because of where they were growing up”.

The £1.3bn extra funding she had announced in July meant overall budgets would rise by £2.6bn in total from almost £41bn in 2017-18 to £43.5bn in 2019-20, she said.

She said she was increasing the basic level of funding to at least £4,800 per pupil at secondary schools in England, as announced in July, and £3,500 per pupil at primaries.

The Department for Education said this would mean an increase for every school of at least 1% per pupil by 2019-20 – with the most underfunded schools getting up to a 3% rise.

‘Real terms cut’

The per pupil funding confirmed on Thursday is more generous than when the new formula was announced in December 2016.

Then, it was proposed that primary schools would attract £2,712 for every pupil, rising through a pupil’s school career to a maximum of £4,312 for Years 10 and 11, the last years at secondary school.

But schools will not automatically get the per pupil funding.

Local authorities will be given a block grant that they must allocate to schools in their area.

Ms Greening said “final decisions on local distribution will be taken by local authorities” but, under the new formula, on average every school would receive at least 0.5% more per pupil in 2018-19 and 1% more in 2019-20 “compared to its baseline”, while many schools would receive “significantly larger increases”.

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The education secretary said the new formula was fairer

Shadow education Secretary Angela Rayner said the announcement did “nothing to reverse” cuts already faced by schools.

She quoted the National Audit Office, saying schools had already lost nearly £2.7bn since the Conservatives pledged in 2015 to protect funding in real terms and asked Ms Greening to “admit to the House that her announcement today does nothing to reverse those cuts and keep that promise”.

The funding formula would result in a “real terms cut in school budgets”, because of inflation, she added.

Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary Geoff Barton said while he welcomed setting minimum funding levels, they were “still way too low to allow schools to deliver the quality of education they want to provide and which pupils need”.

The ASCL says an extra £2bn a year is needed by 2020 to address “real terms” cuts to education funding.

Mr Barton said: “The fundamental problem is there is not enough funding going into education.

“The additional £1.3bn announced by Justine Greening in July was a step in the right direction.

“But schools have already suffered huge cuts, and the additional funding is nowhere near enough to prevent further cuts.”

School funding became a major issue during the general election, with school leaders and teachers’ unions warning that budget shortfalls would mean cuts to staffing and subjects.

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